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The Methodology of the Social Sciences 

Translated and Edited by 

With a Foreword by 


19 4 9 

Copyright 1949 by The Free Press 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any 
form without permission in writirig from the publisher, except by a 
reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a 
magazine or neivspaper. 

Printed in the United States of America 



The essays in this book were written, as all methodological essays 
should be written, in the closest intimacy with actual research and 
against a background of constant and intensive meditation on the 
substantive problems of the theory and strategy of the social sciences. 
They were written in the years between 1903 and 1917, the most pro- 
ductive years of Max Weber's life, when he was working on his studies 
in the sociology of religion and on the second and third parts of Wirt- 
schaft und Gesellschaft. Even before the earliest of the three published 
here — " 'Objectivity' in Social Science and Social Policy"^ — was writ- 
ten, Weber had achieved eminence in Germany in a variety of fields. 
He had already done important work in economic and legal history 
and had taught economic theory as the incumbent of one of the most 
famous chairs in Germany; on the basis of original investigations, he 
had acquired a specialist's knowledge of the details of German eco- 
nomic and social structure. His always vital concern for the political 
prosperity of Germany among the nations had thrust him deeply into 
the discussion of political ideals and programmes. Thus he did not 
come to the methodology of the social sciences as an outsider who 
seeks to impose standards on practices and problems of which he is 
ignorant. The interest which his methodology holds for us to-day is 
to a great extent a result of this feature of Weber's career just as some 
of its shortcomings from our present point of view may perhaps be 
attributed to the fact that some of the methodological problems which 
he treated could not be satisfactorily resolved prior to certain actual 
developments in research technique. 

The essay on "Objectivity" had its immediate origins in his desire 
to clarify the implications of a very concrete problem. Weber, together 

1 First published in the Archiv fiir Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik in 


with Werner Sombart and Edgar Jaflfe, was assuming the editorship 
of the Archiv fur Sozialwissenschajt und Sozialpolitik which was, from 
his assumption of editorial rcsponsibiHty in 1904 until its suspension in 
1933, probably the greatest periodical publication in the field of the 
social sciences in any language. He wished to make explicit the 
standards which the editors would apply and to which they would 
expect their contributors to conform. In doing so, his powerful mind, 
which strove restlessly for clarity at levels where his contemporaries 
were satisfied with ambiguities and cliches, drove through to the funda- 
mental problems of the relationship between general sociological con- 
cepts and propositions on the one hand, and concrete historical reality 
on the other. Another problem which was to engage him imtil his 
death — the problem of the relationship between evaluative stand- 
points or normative judgments and empirical knowledge — received 
its first full statement in this essay. 

"Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences" was pub- 
lished in the Archiv in 1905. It must have been in the process of 
production while he was also busy with a large scale investigation of 
certain aspects of German rural society and with The Protestant Ethic 
and the Spirit of Capitalism. The intricate task of explaining causally 
the emergence of an "historical individual" (in this instance, modern 
capitalism) finds its methodological reflection in this essay which treats 
of the nature of explanation of particular historical events in its rela- 
tionship to general or universal propositions. At the same time, he 
continued, on this occasion much more specifically and with many 
illustrations, to examine, as he had in the essay on "Objectivity", the 
role of evaluative points of view in the selection of subject matters 
and problems and in the constructive application of categories. His 
efforts in this essay were partly a continuation of his long-standing, 
self-clarifying polemic against "objec tivism" and "historicism" but its 
analysis drew its vividness and its realistic tone from the fact that he 
was continuously attempting to explain to himself the procedures 
which he (and other important historians and social scientists) were 
actually using in the choice of problems and in the search for solu- 
tions to them. 

"The Meaning of 'Ethical Neutrality' in Sociology and Economics" 
was published in Logos in 1917, in the midst of the first World War. 


It was a time when patriotic professors were invoking the authority 
of their academic disciplines for the legitimation of their political 
arguments, when Weber himself was engaged in a series of titanic 
polemics against the prevailing political system and while he was still 
working on the sociology of religion. (Perhaps he had already begun 
by this time to work on the more rigorously systematic First Part of 
Wirtschaft und Gesellschajt.'^) The essay itself was a revision of a 
memorandum, written about four years earlier to serve as the basis 
of a private discussion in the Verein fur Sozialpolitik and never made 
publicly accessible. A mass of particular, concrete interests underlie 
this essay — his recurrent effort to penerate to the postulates of 
economic theory,^ his ethical passion for academic freedom, his fervent 
nationalist political convictions and his own perpetual demand for 
intellectual integrity. Max Weber's pressing need to know the grounds 
for his own actions and his strong belief that man's dignity consists in 
his capacity for rational self-determination are evident throughout 
this essay — as well as his contempt for those whose confidence in the 
rightness of their moral judgment is so weak that they feel the urge 
to support it by some authority such as the "trend of history" or its 
conformity with scientific doctrine in a sphere in which the powers of 
science are definitely limited. On this occasion too, Weber worked his 
way through to the most fundamental and most widely ramified 
methodological problems in the attempt to reach clarity about the 
bases of his own practical judgment. Here, of course, he was not 
dealing primarily with the methodology of research, but his procedure 
and his success illustrate the fruitfulness of methodological analysis 
when it has actual judgments and observations to analyze rather than 
merely a body of rules from which it makes deductions. 

The three essays published here do not comprise all of Weber's 
methodological writings^in the Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur Wissen- 
schaftslehre they constitute only one third of a volume of nearly six 

2 Recently published by Talcott Parsons under the title The Theory of 
Social and Economic Organization (London 1947). 

3 Cf. his contribution to the discussion on "Die Produktivitat der Volks- 
wirtschaft" at the meeting of the Verein fiir Sozialpolitik in 1909 {reprinted 
in Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik) and "Die Grenzutz- 
lehre und das psychophysische Grundgesetz" (1908) (reprinted in Gesammelte 
Aufsdtze zur Wissenschaftslehre) . 


hundred pages. One of the most important of his methodological 
essays — "Roscher und Knies und die logischen Problems der his- 
torischen National okonomie" has not been included in the present 
collection, while another important section of the German edition — 
"Methodische Grundlagcn der Soziologie" — has already been pub- 
lished in English.* Yet except for the analysis of the procedure in- 
volved in the verstehende explanation of behaviour which is con- 
tained in the latter essay and in an earlier and less elaborate version, 
in the essay "Uber einige Kategorien der verstehenden Soziologie," ** 
the main propositions of Weber's methodology are fully contained here. 


In many respects, social science to-day is unrecognizably different 
from what it was in the years when these essays were written. Particu- 
larly in the United States and Great Britain, the social sciences have 
developed a whole series of techniques of observation and analysis 
and have on the basis of these, proceeded to describe the contemporary 
world with a degree of concreteness and accuracy which only a few 
optimists could have expected in Weber's time. The number of social 
scientists engaged in research has increased by a large multiple and 
the resources available for financing research have likewise multiplied 
many times over. The success of the social sciences in devising pro- 
cedures of convincing reliability have led to their marriage with policy 
to an extent which could have been conceived only in principle in 
Weber's time. 

The turn of events and the passage of years have not however 
reduced the relevance of these essays. The concrete incidents have 
changed — we are no longer concerned to refute the errors of "objec- 
tivism" and "professorial prophets" are not a very important problem 
for us — but the relationship between concrete research, whether it 
be descriptive concrete research or explanatory concrete research, and 
general theory has become a problem more pressing than ever, even 

* The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Chapter I. 

5 First published in Logos (1913). Reprinted in Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur 


though awareness of it is much less than universal. Many of our 
current advances in research are made in ways which seem to avoid 
raising the problem — so many of our successes are successes in accurate 
description in investigations in which the problem of explanation is left 
to those who requested the investigation or who are to "use" the 
results. Sometimes our desire for accurate description is so great that 
we feel that our intellectual needs are exhausted when that end has 
been achieved. Moreover much of the acceptance and appreciation 
of the utility of social science in the circles with the power to finance 
it and use it, extends largely to just those aspects of social science 
research which are almost exclusively descriptive or in which the task 
of explanation is disposed of by correlations of indices of ambiguous 
analytical meaning or by ad hoc common sense interpretations. The 
fact that the correlations among the indices of ambiguous analytical 
meaning is often high and that the possibilities of successful practical 
manipulation are thus enhanced constitutes a barrier to our perception 
of the need for theory. Here, these essays of Max Weber can perform 
a very useful service. The substantive theory itself will not be found 
here — that must be sought in part in the other writings of Max 
Weber, in part it must be sought in other writers, and in largest part 
it is still to be created - — but the rigorous and convincing demonstra- 
tion of the indispensability of theory in any explanation of concrete 
phenomena will be found here. Although the content of the theory 
will have to be sought elsewhere, Weber's methodological writings 
also raise important questions regarding the structure of a theoretical 
system, and the possibilities of a variety of theoretical systems con- 
structed around their central problems and ultimately "related to 

In the period of his life when he wrote "Objectivity in Social 
Science and Social Policy," Weber still, under Rickert's influence, 
regarded the particular and the concrete as the really "value-relevant" 
phenomenon which the social scientist must understand and seek to 
explain in the appropriate manner. For him, at this stage, a system 
of general concepts and a general theory was simply an instrument. 
It is really irrelevant as to whether we agree with Weber that it is the 
"value relevance" of concrete events which distinguishes the social 
from the natural sciences — - the important point was that he saw the 


possibility and significance of a general theory. It is most unfortunate 
that when he began to elaborate the general conceptual system which 
was to form the first four chapters of Wirtschaft and Gesellschajt, and 
which must have been intended by him as part of a general theory 
which would have explanatory value, he did not write a methodo- 
logical essay on the problems of theory-construction and systematiza- 
tion in the social sciences. " 'Objectivity' in Social Science and Social 
Policy" brings the problem before us in a most intriguing way but 
leaves it unsolved. In doing so however, it raises issues which con- 
temporary social scientists must face if our knowledge is to rise into 
a systematic scientific theory and not merely pile up in a chaos of 
unrelated monographs and articles. 

The impressive improvement of social science over the three 
decades since Weber's death has been accompanied by a vast sprawl 
of interest over a multitude of subject matters which cannot readily 
be coordinated intellectually into a unified body of knowledge. In 
some measure this has been the outcome of random curiosity, in some 
instances it has been the result of immediate practical problems. But 
it is now appropriate to begin to pay more attention to the criteria 
by which problems are to be selected. A healthy science, developing 
in a balanced way, would not normally have to concern itself with 
this matter. But it does seem that in the present state of social science 
in which theory and observation have tended to run apart from one 
another, and in which there has been a scatter of attention over a 
large number of unconnected particular problems, some serious con- 
sideration of the criteria of problem-selection would be fruitful. Here 
Weber's discussion of "value-relevance" can help to bring order into 
the social sciences. His discussion can heighten our self-consciousness 
regarding the grounds on which we choose problems for investigation. 
More self-consciousness about this process and more discussion about 
it might also increase the amount of consensus about the substantive 
as well as the formal criteria of problem-selection. And if this is 
coupled with an intensified awareness of the theoretical necessities 
entailed in concrete empirical investigation, the chances for a growth 
of knowledge about certain crucial problems would appear, in the 
light of our constantly improving technical resources, to be very good. 

Weber's appositencss to the present situation of social science 


emerges again when wc turn to still another problem. In Weber's 
own life-time social scientists were scarcely ever found in the employ- 
ment of governments. "The Meaning of 'Ethical Neutrality' in Sociol- 
ogy and Economics" was directed towards the social scientists in 
universities who made assertions about the right ends of policy in the 
name of their scientific or scholarly disciplines; it was intended to 
clarify the ways and the extent to which statements about policy could 
be based on scientific knowledge. The situation has changed greatly 
since then. In both the United States and Great Britain very large 
numbers of social scientists are employed in Governmental service, and 
outside the Government social scientists are becoming increasingly 
concerned with "applied social research". In most instances the ends 
of policy are taken for granted, the social scientists working to provide 
data about the present situation from which the policy is to take its 
departure, or to provide estimates of the consequences of alternative 
policies. In a smaller proportion of cases, social scientists believe that 
the right ends of policy can be determined by social science research. 
(This "scientistic" attitude seems to have become more pronounced 
with the scientifically right and necessary ascent to pre-eminence of 
the theory of personality, but it is by no means limited to social scien- 
tists trained in psychology.) Weber's treatment of the relationship 
between social science and the ends of action and therewith of policy 
should aid social scientists to see both their possibilities and their 
limitations. It should dissolve the false identification of an apolitical 
attitude with scientific integrity, and it should help to refute the 
baseless accusation that the social sciences arc ethically relativistic or 
nihilistic either in their logical implications or in their empirical con- 
sequences. If it helps social scientists to think better about the way 
in which social science can clarify the assumptions of policy, it will 
also help them in the clarification of the criteria of value-relevance. 
By tracing the assumptions of any policy back to its postulates, the 
establishment of the "value-relevance" of a subject matter or problem 
will also be carried out on a more general or theoretical plane. 
Problems for research will therefore themselves tend to be formulated 
with closer regard for their theoretical assumptions; and the move- 
ment of research interest on to a more abstract plane, where theory 
and research will be fused, will become more likely. 


But these are only a few of the many Hnes which connect Max 
Weber's methodological analysis to the main issues of contemporary 
social science.^ 


London, April 1949 

6 The most accurate and elaborate studies of Max Weber's methodology 
are Alexander von Schelting: Max Weber's Wissenschaftslehre (Tubingen 
1934) and Talcott Parsons: The Structure of Social Action (Glencoe, Illmois, 
1949) (Chapter XVI). Useful analyses of some of Max Weber's methodolog- 
ical problems will be found in F. A. Hayek. "Scientism and the Study of 
Society": Economica: N.S.I. (1942) II. (1943), III (1944) and Karl 
Popper: "The Poverty of Historicism" : Econonnca I & II (1944), III (1945). 


With an Analytical Summary 


Henry A. Finch 


Foreword by Edward A. Shils iii 

I. The Meaning of "Ethical Neutrality" in Sociology 

AND Economics 1 

P. 1-3, Meaning of "value-judgment" — role of "value-judgment" 
within science a different issue from desirability of espousing 
"value-judgments" in teaching — critique of two points of view 
on the latter issue — Weber's own view; P. 3-5, Waning of belief 
that ultimately only one point of view on practical problems is 
correct — implications thereof for "professorial prophets" — what 
the student should obtain today from the university; P. 6, "Cult 
of personality" and pseudo ethical neutrality rejected ; P. 6-8, Dif- 
ficulties in idea that university should be a forum for discussion of 
value problems from all standpoints; P. 9-10, The difficulties in- 
volved in respecting the distinction between empirical statements 
of fact and "value-judgments" — dangers of pseudo-ethical neutral- 
ity — illusion of scientific warrant for truth of via media; P. 10-12, 
The mistaken objections to the distinction between empirical 
statements of fact and "value-judgments" — the real issue con- 
cerns the separation of the investigator's own practical valuations 
from the establishment of empirical facts — ambiguities of taking 
goals as facts; P. 12-13, Historical and individual variations in 
evaluations does not prove the necessary subjectivity of ethics — 
deceptive self-evidence of widely accepted "value-judgments" 
— science as a critic of self-evidence — realistic "science of ethics" 
cannot determine what should happen; P. 14, Empirical-psycho- 
logical and genetic analysis of evaluations leads only to "under- 
standing explanation", but it is not negligible — its definite use in 
regard to causal analysis and clarification; P. 16, Schmoller wrong 
in contention that ethical neutrality implies acknowledgment of 
only formal ethical rules — ethical imperitives not identical with 
cultural values — normative ethics per se cannot affer unambig- 
uous directives for the solution of certain social-political prob- 
lems — example of indeterminate implications of postulate of 


justice— specific ethical problems, personal and social, which 
ethics cannot settle by itself; P. 16-18, So-called strictly "formal"' 
ethical maxims do have substantive meaning — an illustration — 
both empirical and non-empirical value-analysis of the illustra- 
tion inadequate to solve the crucial issue involved — human life 
a series of ultimate decisions by which the soul "chooses its own 
fate"; P. 18-9, Three things can be contributed by an empirical 
discipline to the solution of policy issues — what it cannot supply 
— the distinction between normative and scientific problems stated 
in terms of a series of contrasted questions; P. 20-1, Three func- 
tions of the discussion of "value-judgments" — such discussion is 
emphatically not meaningless; P. 21-2, Selection of problems 
in social science a matter of value-relevance — cultural interests 
and direction of scientific work — the evaluative interests giving 
direction to scientific work can be clarified and differentiated by 
analysis of "value-judgments" — distinction between evaluation 
and value-interpretation; P. 22-5, "Value-judgments" cannot be 
derived from factual trends — illustration of the syndicalist — 
ethical and political limitations of policy of "adaptation to the 
possible"; P. 25-6, Two meanings of "adaptation" — dispensibility 
of the term when it is used evaluatively and not in its biological 
meaning; P. 26-27, Conflict in social life cannot be excluded — 
its forms may vary — meaning of "peace" — evaluation of any type 
of social order must be preceded by empirical study of its modes 
of social selection, but the evaluation is distinct from the study; 
P. 27-8, The problem of the meaning of "progress" — whether 
mental and psychological "progressive differentiation" is progress 
in sense of "inner richness" not scientifically determinable — how- 
ever the cost of such "progress" can be studied empirically — 
P. 28-30, Applicability of "progress" in the empirical history of 
art — in this use the concept of "progress" means "rational", 
"technical" progress — illustration of Gothic architecture; P. 31-2, 
Another illustration from the historic development of music in 
Europe; P. 32, Technical progress in art does not necessarily 
imply aesthetic improvement, although changes in technique are 
causally speaking, the most important factors in the development 
of art; P. 32-3, Historians are apt to confuse causal analysis and 
"value-judgments" — causal analysis, aesthetic valuation and value 
interpretation are all distinct procedures; P. 33-5, The meaning 
of "rational progress" — three senses thereof which are generally 
confused — distinction between subjectively "rational" action and 
rationally "correct" action — where technical progress exists — 
conditions for legitimate use of term "economic progress" ; 
P. 36-7, An illustration of debatable presuppositions of an action 
claimed to be "objectively evaluated" as "economically correct" ; 
P. 37-8, Meaning of technical evaluations of pure economics — 
they are unambiguous only when economic and social context are 
given — when technical evaluations are made this does not settle 
questions of ultimate evaluations ; P. 39-40, The normative valid- 
ity of objects of empirical investigation is disregarded during the 
empirical investigation — example from mathematics — but this 
disregard does not afTect the normative validity of normatively 
valid truths as an a priori basis of all empirical science — and yet 
"understanding" of human conduct is not in terms of that which 
is normatively correct as an a priori condition of all scientific 


investigations — the "understanding'" knowledge of human conduct 
and culture involves conventional rather than normative validity; 
P. 41-2, The truth value of ideas is the guiding value in the 
writing of intellectual history — an illustration from military his- 
tory of the possible study of causal eflfccts of erroneous thoughts 
and calculation — ideal types even of incorrect and self-defeating 
thought necessary for the determining of causation of empirical 
events; P. 43, The normative correctness of the ideal type not . 
necessary for its use — the function of ideal-types vis-a-vis em- I 
pirical reality; P. 43-6, Nature of pure economic theory — -its ideal- 
typical character - — it is apolitical, asserts no moral evaluations 
but is indispensible for analysis — critique of theses of opponents of 
pure economics — relationship of mean-end propositions to cause- 
effect propositions which economic science can supply — other 
problems of economics; P. 46, Factual importance of the state in 
the modern social scene does not establish the state as an 
ultimate value — the view that the state is a means to value is 

II. "Objectivity" in Social Science and Social Policy. ... 50 

P. 50, Introductory note on the responsibility for and content 
of the essay; P. 50-1, Problem of relationship of practical social 
criticism to scientific social research; P. 51-2, Points of view 
hampering logical formulation of difference between "existential' 
and "normative" knowledge in social-economic science; P. 52, 
Rejection of view that empirical science provides norms and 
ideals — however, criticism vis-a-vis "value-judgments" is not to be 
suspended; P. 52-3, Appropriateness of means to, and chance of 
achieving, a given end are accessible to scientific analysis; P. 53, 
Scientific analysis can predict "costs" of unintended or incidental 
consequences of action; P. 53-4, Scientific treatment of "value- 
judgment" can reveal "ideas" and ideals underlying concrete 
ends; P. 55, The judgment of the validity of values is a matter 
for faith or possibly for speculative philosophy, but not within 
province of empirical science — the distinction between empirical 
and normative not obliterated by the fact of cultural change ; 
P. 55-7, Illusory self-evidence of consensus on certain goals — 
problems of social policy are not merely technical — naive belief in 
the scientific deducibility of normatively desirable cultural 
values — cultural values are ethical imperatives only for dog- 
matically bound religious sects; P. 57-8, The via media of the 
practical politician or syncretic relativism is not warranted as 
correct by science ; P. 58, The inexpugnable difference between 
arguments appealing to (1) enthusiasm and feeling (2) ethical 
conscience (3) capacity as a scientific knower; P. 58-9, Scientific- 
ally valid social science analysis can strive for supra-cultural 
validity; P. 59-60, Reasons for expressing "value-judgments" if 
they are clearly formulated as such and distinguished from scien- 
tific statements; P. 61-2, The recognition of social problems is 
value-oriented — character of the Archiv in the past, in the future; 
P. 63, What is the meaning of objectively valid truth in the social 
sciences; P. 63-4, Scarcity of means is the basic characteristic of 
socio-economic subject matter — what a social science problem 
is; P. 64-6, Distinction between "economic", "economically rele- 



vant" and "economically conditioned" phenomena; P. 66, Condi- 
tion for the existence of social-economic problems — extent of the 
range of social-economics; P. 66-7, Past concerns and central 
present aim of the Archiv; P. 67, Study of society from the eco- 
nomic point of view "one-sided" but intentionally so — the 
"social"' as subject of study needs specification; P. 68-71, Cul- 
tural phenomena not deducible from material interests — diflFer- 
encc between crude monistic materialistic conception of history 
and useful critical use of the economic point of view — analogous 
dogmatic excesses on the part of other sciences; P. 72, "One- 
sided" viewpoints necessary to realize cognitive goal of empirical 
social science inquiring into selected segments of concrete reality ; 
P. 72-3, Criteria of historian's selection not solely from require- 
ments of discovery of laws or ultimate psychological factors — 
these are at most preliminary to the desired type of knowledge — 
characterization of the latter; P. 75-6, Four tasks of the desired 
type of social science knowledge; P. 76, The decisive feature of 
the method of the cultural sciences — the significance of cultural 
configurations rooted in value-conditioned interest; P. 77, Two 
types of analysis are logically distinct, in terms of laws and general 
concepts and in terms of value-rooted meaning — analysis of 
generic general features of phenomena a preliminary task to 
analysis of cultural significance of concrete historical fact; P. 78-9, 
The "historical" is "the significant in its individuality" — impos- 
sibility of causal analysis of culture without selection of "essen- 
tial" features — in the study of "historical individuals" it is a 
question of concrete causal relationships, not laws; P. 80, But 
causal imputation of concrete causal effects to concrete cultural 
causes presupposes knowledge of recurrent causal sequences, i.e. 
of "adequate" causes— meaning thereof— certainty of imputation 
a function of comprehensiveness of general knowledge — why it 
is a meaningless ideal for social science to seek the reduction of 
empirical reality to laws; P. 81, Non-equivalence of cultural sig- 
nificance with positive cultural value ; P. 82, Why the view persists 
that evaluative ideas are derivable from the "facts themselves"— 
the personal element in research; P. 82, The necessity of "sub- 
jective" evaluative ideas does not mean causal knowledge is absent 
in cultural science — nor can causal knowledge be supplanted by 
"teleology" ; P. 83-4, Evaluative ideas are "subjective," but 
the results of research are not subjective in the sense of being 
valid for one person and not for others ; P. 84-5, Meaninglessness 
of the idea of a closed system of concepts from which reality is 
deducible — shifts and movements in cultural problems; P. 85, A 
basic question, the role of theory in the knowledge of cultural 
reality; P. 85, Effect of natural law, rationalistic Weltanschauung, 
natural-science conceptualization on practical "arts" and on 
economics — seeming triumph of law-oriented analysis in his- 
torical study under the influence of evolutionary biology — the 
present confused situation and its origin; P. 87-88, Meaning and 
contentions of "abstract" theoretical method in economics — 
fruitlcssness of debate concerning these contentions — social in- 
stitutions not deducible from psychological laws; P. 89-90, A kind 
of concept construction peculiar to and, to a certain extent, indis- 
pensible to the cultural sciences — an illustration; P. 90, The ideal- 
typical concept distinguished from an hypothesis, a description, 


an average — it is useful for both heuristic and expository pur- 
poses; P. 90-1, Illustrations; P. 91-2, "Ideal" in logical sense to 
be distinguished from "ideal" in ethical sense; P. 92-3, The sole 
criterion justifying the use of the ideal type — illustrations of 
idea-type conccpts^^they are not to be found according to a 
scheme of genus proximum, differentia specifica — characteristics 
of ideal-type concepts — their relationship to category of objec- 
tive possibility; P. 93-4, Elaboration of ideal-type concepts of 
"church" and "sect" — cultural significance and ideal-type con- 
cepts; P. 94-6, Three naturalistic misconceptions concerning 
ideal-typical concepts — the ideal-typical concept of an epoch's 
features and the ideas actually governing men — the latter is 
indeed itself to be clearly formulated only in an ideal-type — an 
illustration; P. 96-7, Varying relationship between ideal-type of 
ideas of an epoch and empirical reality; P. 98, Ideal-types often 
used not in a logical but in an evaluative sense — an illustration — 
these senses frequently confused in historical writing; P. 99, Ideal 
typical concept of the state discussed; P. 100-1, The ideal-typical 
concept in its relationship to class, generic or average concepts ; 
P. 101 -3, Distinction between history and ideal-typical constructs 
of developmental sequences — why it is difficult to maintain this 
distinction; P. 103, Marxian "laws" are ideal-typical; P. 103, A 
list of mental and conceptual constructs indicating ramifications 
of methodological problems in the cultural sciences; P. 104-5, 
Sense in which maturing social science transcends its ideal-types — 
the tension between the possibility of new knowledge and old 
integrations the source of progress in the cultural sciences; P. 105, 
interdependence of concept construction, problem setting and 
content of culture; P. 106, Incompatibility of goal of social 
sciences as viewed by the Historical School and modern, Kantian 
theory of knowledge — the function of concepts is not the repro- 
duction of reality; P. 107-110, Dangers of neglect of clear cut 
concept construction — two illustrations; P. 110-11, Recapitulation 
of the argument; P. 112, "Subject matter specialists," "interpre- 
tive specialists", their excesses— genuine artistry of the research 
which avoids these excesses — and yet change of evaluative view- 
point occurs even in an age of necessary speculation. 

III. Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural 

Sciences 113 

I. A critique of Eduard Meyer's methodological views. 

P. 113-4, Value of Meyer's book as a focus of discussion; 
P. 115-6, The role of methodology in the advance of science — 
methodological interest of present situation in history; P. 116-7, 
List of theses concerning history attacked by Meyer; P. 117-9, 
Meyer's analysis of "chance" and its relationship to "free will" ; 
P. 119, Meyer on "freedom" and "Necessity"; P. 119, Examina- 
tion of Meyer's conception of "free will" — his tendency to fuse 
ethical and causal analysis; P. 122-4, Meyer's error in blurring 
the distinction between historical knowledge and ethics, and in 
equating freedom with irrationality of action; P. 124-5, Ration- 
ality and freedom; P. 126-7, Contradictions in Meyer's concep- 
tion of historical causality — Meyer's discussion of "freedom" and 


"necessity" in their relation to "general", "particular", "individ- 
ual", "collectivity"— confusion therein; P. 129-30, What is his- 
torically significant cannot be reached by subtracting the common 
from unique traits; P. 130-1, Meyer's right instinct but poor 
formulation concerning the role of the general, i.e. rules and con- 
cepts in history — the logical problems of the ordering of historical 
phenomena by concepts — the meaning of the category of possi- 
bility; P. 131-2, Meyer's definition of "historical" — what deter- 
mines the historian's selection of events; P. 132-3, Instances of 
confusion of ratio essendi with ratio cognoscendi in historical 
study P. 134-6, Two distinct logical uses of data of cultural 
reality — illustrations; P. 136, Meyer's confusion of heuristic device 
with fact — his narrow view of the interest governing the his- 
torian's selection; P. 137-8, What is the meaning of the effec- 
tiveness of cultures or their components; P. 138-42, Meaning of 
the "significant" and its relationship to historical effectiveness — 
the illustration of Goethe's letters; P. 143, A type of significance 
which is neither heuristic nor causal — the object of interpreta- 
tion — two kinds of interpretation; P. 143-5, Meaning of "value- 
interpretation — -its distinction from linguistic-textual analysis — 
which "value-interpretations" can claim to be scientific; P. 145-7, 
How value interpretation is dealt with by Heyer; P. 147-9, The 
relationship of facts of value analysis to facts of history — analysis 
of illustrative cases — Goethe's letters and Marx's Kapital — rele- 
vance of historical facts for value-interpretations; P. 149-152, 
Nature of value analysis; P. 152-6, Difficulties in Meyer's dis- 
cussion of the historical interest governing historian's selection 
— role of the contemporaneity of the interest — confusion of his- 
torical individual and historical cause; P. 156-8, Historical in- 
terest determined by values, not by objective causal relationships 
— confusion of "valuable" with "causally important"; P. 158, 
Why the present is no subject matter for history; P. 158-160, 
Summary statement on Meyer's inadequate equating of "effec- 
tive" with "historical" — summary on meaning of interpretation; 
P. 160, Relationships between the philosophy of history, value- 
analysis and historical work; P. 161, Why historians are often 
not aware of the value-analysis implicit in their work — Meyer's 
correct recognition of the difference between historical work and 
value-interpretation — problem of meaning of "systematics" in 
historical, cultural science; P. 161-3, An illustration — three value 
oriented points of view from which the classical culture of an- 
tiquity can be treated. 

II. Objective possibility and adequate causation in histor- 
ical explanation. 

P. 164-66, No idle question for history to inquire into what con- 
sequences were to be expected if certain conditions had been 
other than they were — importance of such questions in determin- 
ing historical significance; P. 166-9, Sources for theory of 
"objective" possibility — origins in juristic theory — history does 
not share jurisprudence's ethical interest in the theory; P. 169, 
Causal historical explanation deals with selected aspects of events 
having significance from general standpoints; P. 171, A sufficient 
condition establishing causal irrelevance of given circumstances 


for an individual effect; P. 171-2, Account, with an illustration, 
of logical operations which establish historical causal relations; 
P. 172-3, Historians ought not to be reluctant to admit objective 
possibility; P. 173-4, Isolations and generalizations required to se- 
cure "judgment of possibility" — category of objective possibility 
not an expression of ignorance or incomplete knowledge — such 
judgments presuppose known empirical rules — instance of the 
Battle of the Marathon ; P. 1 75, Meaning of "adequate causes" ; 
P. 175, The simplest historical judgment is not simple registration 
of something found and finished, rather does it presuppose the use 
of a forming category and a whole body of empirical knowledge ; 
P. 175-77, Psychological processes of historical discovery not to 
be confused with its logical structure; P. 177-80, The causal an- 
alysis of personal actions must also distinguish between categori- 
cally formed constructs and immediate experience; P. 180, Recog- 
nition of possibility in causal inquiry does not imply arbitrary 
historiography, for category of objective possibility enables the 
assessment of the causal significance of a historical fact; P. 181, 
The certainty of judgments of objective possibility may vary in 
degree — objective historical possibility is an analogue, with im- 
portant differences, of the kind of probability that is determined 
from observed frequencies; P. 184-5, Definition of "adequate 
causation" — application to Battle of Marathon, the March Revo- 
lution, the unification of Germany — reiteration of constructive 
nature of historian's conceptualization; P. 186-7, Binding's "an- 
thropomorphic" misunderstanding of objective possibility — real 
meaning of "favoring" and "obstructing" conditions— the special 
character of causality when adequacy of causation is concerned 
needs further study. 

The Meaning of "Ethical Neutrahty" 
in Sociology and Economics 

JD Y "VALUE-JUDGMENTS" are to be understood, where nothing 
else is implied or expressly stated, practical evaluations of the unsat- 
isfactory or satisfactory character of phenomena subject to our influ- 
ence. The problem involved in the "freedom" of a given science 
from value-judgments of this kind, i.e., the validity and the meaning 
of this logical principle, is by no means identical with the question 
which is to be discussed shortly, namely, whether in teaching one 
should or should not declare one's acceptance of practical value- 
judgments, deduced from ethical principles, cultural ideals or a philo- 
sophical outlook. This question cannot be discussed scientifically. 
It is itself entirely a question of practical valuation, and cannot 
therefore be definitively settled. With reference to this issue, a wide 
variety of views is held, of which we shall only mention the two 
extremes. At one pole we find (a) the standpoint that the distinc- 
tion between purely logically deducible and empirical factual 
assertions on the one hand, and practical, ethical or philosophical 
value-judgments on the other, is correct, but that, nevertheless (or 
perhaps, precisely because of this), both classes of problems properly 
belong within the area of instruction. At the other pole we encounter 
(b) the proposition that even when the distinction cannot be made 
in a logically complete manner, it is nevertheless desirable that the 
assertion of value-judgments should be held to a minimum. 

The latter point of view seems to me to be untenable. Especially 
untenable is the distinction which is rather often made in our field 
between value-judgments of a partisan character and those which 
are non-partisan. This distinction only obscures the practical impli- 


cations of the preferences which are suggested to the audience. Once 
the assertion of value-judgments from the academic platform is ad- 
mitted, the contention that the university teacher should be entirely 
devoid of "passion" and that he should avoid all subjects which 
threaten to arouse over-heated controversies constitutes a narrow- 
minded, bureaucratic opinion which every independent teacher must 
reject. Of the scholars who believed that they should not renounce 
the assertion of practical value-judgements in empirical discus- 
sions, it was the most passionate of them — such as Treitschke — and 
in his own way, Mommsen, who were the most tolerable. As a result 
of their intensely emotional tone, their audiences were enabled to 
discount the influence of their evaluations in whatever distortion was 
introduced into their factual assertions. Thereby the audiences did 
for themselves what the lecturers were temperamentally prevented 
from doing. The effect on the minds of the students was thus guaran- 
teed the same depth of moral feeling which, in my opinion, the pro- 
ponents of the assertion of practical value-judgments in teaching 
want to protect, without the audience's being confused as to the 
logical disjunction between the different spheres. This confusion 
must of necessity occur whenever the exposition of empirical facts 
and the exhortation to take an evaluative position on important 
issues are both done with the same cool dispassionateness. 

The first point of view (a) is acceptable and, can indeed be accept- 
able from the standpoint of its own proponents, only when the teacher 
sets as his unconditional duty, in every single case, even to the point 
where it involves the danger of making his lecture less lively or 
attractive, to make relentlessly clear to his audience, and especially 
to himself, which of his statements are statements of logically deduced 
or empirically observed facts and which arc statements of practical 
evaluations. Once one has acknowledged the logical disjunction be- 
tween the two spheres, it seems to me that the assumption of this 
attitude is an imperative requirement of intellectual honesty; in this 
case it is the absolutely minimal requirement. 

On the other hand, the question whether one should in general 
assert practical value-judgments in teaching (even with this reserva- 
tion) is one of practical university policy. On that account, it must 
in the last analysis, be decided only with reference to those tasks 


which the individual, according to his own vaiue-system, assigns to 
the universities. Those who on the basis of their quaHfications as 
teachers assign to the universities and thereby to themselves the uni- 
versal role of moulding human beings, of inculcating political, ethical, 
aesthetic, cultural or other attitudes, will take a different position than 
those who believe it necessary to affirm the fact (and its consequences) 
that the academic lecture-hall achieves a really valuable influence 
only through specialized training by specially qualified persons. For 
the latter, therefore, "intellectual integrity" is the only specific virtue 
which it should seek to inculcate. The first point of view can be 
defended from as many different ultimate value-positions as the sec- 
ond. The second (which I personally accept) can be derived from 
a most enthusiastic as well as from a thoroughly modest estimate of 
the significance of specialized training (Fachbildung) . In order to 
defend this view, one need not be of the opinion that everyone should 
become as specialized as possible. One may, on the contrary, hold 
the view in question because one does not wish to see the ultimate 
and highest personal decisions which a person must make regarding 
his life, confounded with specialized training — however highly one 
may estimate the significance of specialized training not only for 
general intellectual training but indirectly also for the self-discipline 
and ethical attitude of the young person. One may hold the latter 
view because one does not wish to see the student so influenced by 
the teacher's suggestions that he is prevented from solving his problems 
on the basis of his own conscience. 

Professor Schmoller's favorable disposition towards the teacher's 
assertion of his own value-judgments in the classroom is thoroughly 
intelligible to me personally as the echo of a great epoch which he 
and his friends helped to create. But even he cannot deny the fact 
that for the younger generation the objective situation has changed 
considerably in one important respect. Forty years ago there existed 
among the scholars working in our discipline, the widespread belief 
that of the various possible points of view in the domain of practical- 
political preferences, ultimately only one was the correct one. 
(Schmoller himself to be sure took this position only to a limited 
extent) . Today this is no longer the case among the proponents of 
the assertion of professorial evaluations — as may easily be demon- 


strated. The legitimacy of the assertion of professorial evaluations 
is no longer defended in the name of an ethical imperative whose 
comparatively simple postulate of justice, both in its ultimate founda- 
tions as well as in its consequences, partly was, and partly seemed to 
be, relatively unambiguous and above all relatively impersonal (due 
to its specifically suprapersonal character) . Rather, as the result 
of an inevitable development, it is now done in the name of a patch- 
work of cultural values, i.e., actually subjective demands on culture, 
or quite openly, in the name of the alleged "rights of the teacher's 
personality." One may well wax indignant over this, but one can- 
not — because it is a value-judgment — refute this point of view. Of 
all the types of prophecy, this "personally" tinted professorial type 
of prophecy is the only one which is altogether repugnant. An un- 
precedented situation exists when a large number of officially accred- 
ited prophets do not do their preaching on the streets, or in churches 
or other public places or in sectarian conventicles, but rather feel 
themselves competent to enunciate their evaluations on ultimate 
questions "in the name of science" in govemmentally privileged lec- 
ture halls in which they are neither controlled, checked by discussion^ 
nor subject to contradiction. It is an axiom of long standing, which 
Schmoller on one occasion vigorously espoused that what took place 
in the lecture hall should be held separate from the arena of public 
discussion. Although it is possible to contend that even scientifically 
this may have its disadvantages, I take the view that a "lecture" 
should be different from a "speech." The calm rigor, matter-of- 
factness and sobriety of the lecture declines with definite pedagog- 
ical losses, when the substance and manner of public discussion are 
introduced, in the style of the press. This privilege of freedom from 
outside control seems in any case to be appropriate only to the 
sphere of the specialized qualifications of the professor. There is, 
however, no specialized qualification for personal prophecy, and for 
this reason it is not entitled to that privilege of freedom from external 
control. Furthermore, there should be no exploitation of the fact 
that the student, in order to make his way, must attend certain educa- 
tional institutions and take courses with certain teachers, with the 
lesult that in addition to what is required, i.e., the stimulation and 
cultivation of his capacity for observation and reasoning, and a certain 


body of factual information, the teacher slips in his own uncontradict- 
able evaluations, which though sometimes of considerable interest, 
are often quite trivial. 

Like everyone else, the professor has other facilities for the diffu- 
sion of his ideals. When these facilities are lacking, he can easily 
create them in an appropriate form, as experience has shown in the 
case of every honest attempt. But the professor should not demand 
the right as a professor to carry the marshal's baton of the statesman 
or reformer in his knapsack. This is just what he does when he uses 
the unassailability of the academic chair for the expression of political 
(or cultural-political) evaluations. In the press, in public meetings, 
in associations, in essays, in every avenue which is open to every other 
citizen, he can and should do what his God or daemon demands. 
Today the student should obtain, from his teacher in the lecture hall, 
the capacity: (1) to fulfill a given task in a workmanlike fashion; (2) 
definitely to recognize facts, even those which may be personally un- 
comfortable, and to distinguish them from his own evaluations; (3) 
to subordinate himself to his task and to repress the impulse to exhibit 
his personal tastes or other sentiments unnecessarily. This is vastly 
more important today than it was forty years ago when the problem 
did not even exist in this form. It is not true — as many people have 
insisted — that the "personality" is and should be a "whole" in the 
sense that it is injured when it is not exhibited on every possible 

Every professional task has its own "inherent norms" and should 
be fulfilled accordingly. In the execution of his professional respon- 
sibility, a man should confine himself to it alone and should exclude 
whatever is not strictly proper to it — particularly his own loves and 
hates. The powerful personality does not manifest itself by trying 
to give everything a "personal touch" at every possible opportunity. 
The generation which is now growing up should, above all. again 
become used to the thought that "being a personality" is something 
that cannot be deliberately striven for and that there is only one way 
by which it can (perhaps!) be achieved: namely, the whole-hearted 
devotion to a "task" whatever it (and its derivative "demands of the 
hour") may be. It is poor taste to mix personal questions with spe- 
cialized factual analyses. We deprive the word "vocation" of the 



only meaning which still retains ethical significance if we fail to carry 
out that specific kind of self-restraint which it requires. But whether 
the fashionable "cult of the personality" seeks to dominate the throne, 
public office or the professorial chair — its impressiveness is super- 
ficial. Intrinsically, it is very petty and it always has prejudicial 
consequences. Now I hope that it is not necessary for me to empha- 
size that the proponents of the views against which the present essay 
is directed can accomplish very little by this sort of cult of the "per- 
sonality" for the very reason that it is "personal." In part they see 
the responsibilities of the professorial chair in another light, in part 
they have other educational ideals which I respect but do not share. 
For this reason we must seriously consider not only what they strive 
to achieve but also how the views which they legitimate by their 
authority influence a generation with an already extremely pro- 
nounced predisposition to overestimate its own importance. 

Finally, it scarcely needs to be pointed out that many ostensible 
opponents of the assertion of political value-judgments from the aca- 
demic chair are by no means justified when, in seeking to discredit 
cultural and social-political discussions which take place in public, 
they invoke the postulate of "ethical neutrality" which they often 
misunderstand so gravely. The indubitable existence of this spuri- 
ously "ethically neutral" tendentiousness, which (in our discipline) 
is manifested in the obstinate and deliberate partisanship of powerful 
interest groups, explains why a significant number of intellectually 
honest scholars still continue to assert their personal evaluations from 
their chair. They are too proud to identify themselves with this 
pseudo-ethical neutrality. Personally I believe that, in spite of this, 
what is right (in my opinion) should be done and that the influence 
of the value-judgments of a scholar who confines himself to cham- 
pioning them at appropriate occasions outside the classroom, will 
increase when it becomes known that he does only his "task" inside 
the classroom. But these statements are in their turn, all matters 
of evaluation, and hence scientifically undemonstrable. 

In any case the fundamental principle which justifies the practice 
of asserting value-judgments in teaching can be consistently held only 
when its proponents demand that the spokesman for all party- 
prcfcrcnccs be granted the opportunity of demonstrating their validity 


on the academic platform.^ But in Germany, insistence on the right 
of professors to state their evaluations has been associated with the 
opposite of the demand for the equal representation of all (even the 
most "extreme") tendencies. Schmoller thought that he was being 
entirely consistent from his own premises when he declared that 
"Marxists and Manchcsterites" were disqualified from holding aca- 
demic positions although he was never so unjust as to ignore their 
scientific accomplishments. It is exactly on these points that I could 
never agree with our honored master. One obviously ought not 
justify the expression of evaluations in teaching — and then when the 
conclusions are drawn therefrom, point out that the university is a 
state institution for the training of "loyal" administrators. Such a 
procedure makes the university, not into a specialized technical school 
(which appears to be so degrading to many teachers) but rather into 
a theological seminary — except that it does not have the latter's 
religious dignity. 

Attempts have been made to set up certain purely "logical" limits 
to the range of value-judgments which should be allowed from the 
academic chair. One of our foremost jurists once explained, in dis- 
cussing his opposition to the exclusion of socialists from university 
posts, that he too would not be willing to accept an "anarchist" as 
a teacher of law since anarchists deny the validity of law in general 
— and he regarded his argument as conclusive. My own opinion 
is exactly the opposite. An anarchist can surely be a good legal 
scholar. And if he is such, then indeed the Archimedean point of 
his convictions, which is outside the conventions and presuppositions 
which are so self-evident to us, can equip him to perceive problems 
in the fundamental postulates of legal theory which escape those who 
take them for granted. Fundamental doubt is the father of knowl- 
edge. The jurist is no more responsible for "proving" the value of 

iHence we cannot be satisfied with the Dutch principle: i.e., emancipation 
of even theological faculties from confessional reuirements, together with the 
freedom to found universities as long as the following conditions arc ob- 
served : guarantee of finances, maintenance of standards as to qualifications 
of teachers and the private right to found chairs as a patron's gift to the uni- 
versity. This gives the advantage to those with large sums of money and to 
groups which are already in power. Only clerical circles have, as far as wc 
know, made use of this privilege. 


those cultural objects which are relevant to "law" than the physician 
is responsible for demonstrating that the prolongation of life is desir- 
able under all conditions. Neither of them is in a position to do this 
with the means at their disposal. If, however, one wishes to turn 
the university into a forum for the discussion of values, then it 
obviously becomes a duty to permit the most unrestrained freedom 
of discussion of fundamental questions from all value-positions. Is 
this possible? Today the most decisive and important questions of 
practical and political values are excluded from German universities 
by the very nature of the present political situation. For all those 
to whom the interests of the nation are more important than any of 
its particular concrete institutions, a question of central importance 
is whether the conception which prevails today regarding the position 
of the monarch in Germany is reconcilable with the world-interests 
of the nation, and with the instruments (war and diplomacy) through 
which these are expressed. It is not always the worst patriots nor 
even anti-monarchists who give a negative answer to this question 
and who doubt the possibility of lasting success in both these spheres 
as long as very basic changes are not made. Everyone knows, how- 
ever, that these vital questions of our national life cannot be discussed 
with full freedom in German universities.^ In view of the fact that 
certain value-questions which are of decisive political significance are 
permanently banned from university discussion, it seems to me to 
be only in accord with the dignity of a representative of science to he 
silent as well about such value-problems as he is allowed to treat. 

But in no case, however, should the unrcsolvablc question — un- 
resolvable because it is ultimately a question of evaluation — as to 
whether one may, must, or should champion certain practical values 
in teaching, be confused with the purely logical discussion of the 
relationship of value-judgments to empirical disciplines such as soci- 
ology and economics. Any confusion on this point will impede the 
thoroughness of the discussion of the actual logical problem. Its 
solution will, however, not give any directives for answering the other 

^This is by no means peculiar to Germany. In almost every country there 
exist, openly or hidden, actual restraints. The only differences arc in the 
character of the particular value-questions which arc thus excluded. 


question beyond two purely logical requirements, namely: clarity and 
an explicit separation of the different types of problems. 

Nor need I discuss further whether the distinction between empir- 
ical statements of fact and value-judgments is "difficult" to make. 
It is. All of us, those of us who take this position as well as others, 
encounter the subject time and again. But the exponents of the 
so-called "ethical economics" particularly should be aware that even 
though the moral law is perfectly unfulfillable, it is nonetheless "im- 
posed" as a duty. The examination of one's conscience would per- 
haps show that the fulfillment of our postulate is especially difficult, 
just because we reluctantly refuse to enter the very alluring area of 
values without a titillating "personal touch." Every teacher has 
observed that the faces of his students light up and they become 
more attentive when he begins to set forth his personal evaluations, 
and that the attendance at his lectures is greatly increased by the 
expectation that he will do so. Everyone knows furthermore that in 
the competition for students, universities in making recommendations 
for advancement, will often give a prophet, however minor ,who 
can fill the lecture halls, the upper hand over a much superior scholar 
who does not present his own preferences. Of course, it is under- 
stood in those cases that the prophecy should leave sufficiently un- 
touched the political or conventional preferences which are generally 
accepted at the time. The pseudo-"ethically-neutrar' prophet who 
speaks for the dominant interests has, of course, better opportunities 
for ascent due to the influence which these have on the political 
powers-that-be. I regard all this as very undesirable, and I will also 
therefore not go into the proposition that the demand for the exclu- 
sion of value-judgments is "petty" and that it makes the lectures 
"boring." I will not touch upon the question as to whether lectur- 
ers on specialized empirical problems must seek above all to be 
"interesting." For my own part, in any case, I fear that a lecturer 
who makes his lectures stimulating by the insertion of personal evalua- 
tions will, in the long run, weaken the students' taste for sober 
empirical analysis. 

I will acknowledge without further discussion that it is possible, 
vmder the semblance of eradicating all practical value-judgments, to 
suggest such preferences with especial force by simply "letting the 


facts speak for themselves." The better kind of our parliamentary 
and electoral speeches operate in this way — and quite legitimately, 
given their purposes. No \vords should be wasted in declaring that 
all such procedures on the university lecture platform, particularly 
from the standpoint of the demand for the separation of judgments 
of fact from judgments of value, are, of all abuses, the most 
abhorrent. The fact, however, that a dishonestly created illusion of 
the fulfillment of an ethical imperative can be passed off as the 
reality, constitutes no criticism of the imperative itself. At any rate, 
even if the teacher does not believe that he should deny himself the 
right of asserting value-judgments, he should make them absolutely 
explicit to the students and to himself. 

Finally, we must oppose to the utmost the widespread view that 
scientific "objectivity" is achieved by weighing the various evaluations 
against one another and making a "statesman-like" compromise 
among them. Not only is the "middle way" just as undemonstrable 
scientifically (with the means of the empirical sciences) as the "most 
extreme" evaluations; rather, in the sphere of evaluations, it is the 
least unequivocal. It does not belong in the university — but rather 
in political programs and in parliament. The sciences, both norma- 
tive and empirical, are capable of rendering an inestimable service 
to persons engaged in political activity by telling them that ( 1 ) these 
and these "ultimate" positions are conceivable with reference to this 
practical problem; (2) such and such are the facts which you must 
take into account in making your choice between these positions. 
And with this we come to the real problem. 

Endless misunderstanding and a great deal of terminological — 
and hence sterile — conflict have taken place about the term "value- 
judgment." Obviously neither of these has contributed anything to 
the solution of the problem. It is, as we said in the beginning, quite 
clear that in these discussions, we are concerned with practical evalua- 
tions regarding the desirability or undesirability of social facts from 
ethical, cultural or other points of view. In spite of all that I have 
said,"'' the following "objections" have been raised in all seriousness: 

31 must refer here to what I have said in other essays in this volume (the 
possible inadequacies of particular formulations on certain points do not 


science strives to attain "valuable" results, meaning thereby logically 
and factually correct results which are scientifically significant; and 
that further, the selection of the subject-matter already involves an 
"evaluation." Another almost inconceivable misunderstanding which 
constantly recurs is that the propositions which I propose imply that 
empirical science cannot treat "subjective" evaluations as the subject- 
matter of its analysis — (although sociology and the whole theory of 
marginal utility in economics depend on the contrary assumption). 

What is really at issue is the intrinsically simple demand that 
the investigator and teacher should keep unconditionally separate 
the establishment of empirical facts (including the "value-oriented" 
conduct of the empirical individual whom he is investigating) and 
his own practical evaluations, i.e., his evaluation of these facts as 
satisfactory or unsatisfactory (including among these facts evalua- 
tions made_by_the empirical persons who are the objects of investiga- 
tion.) These two things are logically different and to deal with 
them as though they were the same represents a confusion of entirely 
heterogeneous problems. In an otherwise valuable treatise, an author 
states "an investigator can however take his own evaluation as a 
'fact' and then draw conclusions from it." What is meant here is as 
indisputedly correct as the expression chosen is misleading. Naturally 
it can be agreed before a discussion that a certain practical measure: 
for instance, the covering of the costs of an increase in the size of 
the army from the pockets of the propertied class should be presup- 
posed in the discussion and that what are to be discussed are means 
for its execution. This is often quite convenient. But such a com- 
monly postulated practical goal should not be called a "fact" in the 
ordinary sense but an " a priori end." That this is also of two-fold 
significance will be shown very shortly in the discussion of "means" 
even if the end which is postulated as "indiscussible" were as con- 
crete as the act of lighting a cigar. In such cases, of course, discus- 
sion of the means is seldom necessary. In almost every case of a 
generally formulated purpose, as in the illustration chosen above, it 

affect any essential aspects of the issue), As to the "irreconcilability" of cer- 
tain ultimate evaluations in a certain sphere of problems, cf. G. Radbruch's 
Einfuhrung in die Rechtwissenschaft (2d ed., 1913). I diverge from him on 
certain points but these are of no significance for the problem discussed here. 


is found that in the discussion of means, each individual understood 
something quite different by the ostensibly unambiguous end. Fur- 
thermore, exactly the same end may be striven after for very diverg- 
ent ultimate reasons, and these influence the discussion of means. 
Let us however disregard this. No one will dispute the idea that a 
certain end may be commonly agreed on, while only the means of 
attaining it are discussed. Nor will anyone deny that this procedure 
can result in a discussion which is resolved in a strictly empirical 
fashion. But actually the whole discussion centers about the choice 
of ends (and not of "means" for a given end) ; in other words, in 
\vhat sense can the evaluation, which the individual asserts, be treated, 
not as a fact but as the object of scientific criticism. If this question 
is not clearly perceived then all further discussion is futile. 

^Ve are not concerned with the question of the extent to which 
difTerent types of evaluations may claim difTerent degrees of norma- 
tive dignity — in other words, we are not interested in the extent to 
which ethical evaluations, for example, difTer in character from the 
question whether blondes are to be preferred to brunettes or some 
similar judgment of taste. These are problems in axiology, not in 
the methodology of the empirical disciplines. The latter are con- 
cerned only with the fact that the validity of a practical imperative 
as a norm and the truth-value of an empirical proposition are abso- 
luetely heterogeneous in character. Any attempt to treat these logic- 
ally difTerent types of propositions as identical only reduces the 
particular value of each of them. This error has been committed 
on many occasions, especially by Professor von Schmoller.* Respect 
for our master forbids me to pass over these points where I find 
myself unable to agree with him. 

At first, I might make a few remarks against the view that the 
mere existence of historical and individual variations in evaluations 
proves the necessarily "subjective" character of ethics. Even propo- 
sitions about empirical facts are often very much disputed and there 
might well be a much greater degree of agreement as to whether 
someone is to be considered a scoundrel than there would be (even 

'*In his essay on "Volkswirtschaftslehrc" in the Handworterhuch der Staatswis- 


among specialists) concerning, for instance, the interpretation of 
a mutilated inscription. I have not at all perceived the growing 
unanimity of all religious groups and individuals with respect to 
value-judgments which Schmoller claims to perceive. But in any 
case it is irrelevant to our problem. What we must vigorously oppose 
is the view that one may be "scientifically" contented with the con- 
ventional self-evidentness of very widely accepted value-judgments. 
The specific function of science, it seems to me, is just the opposite: 
namely, to ask questions about these things which convention makes 
self-evident. As a matter of fact, Schmoller and his associates did 
exactly this in their time. The fact that one investigates the influence 
of certain ethical or religious convictions on economic life and esti- 
mates it to be large under certain circumstances does not, for instance, 
imply the necessity of sharing or even esteeming those casually very 
significant convictions. Likewise, the imputation of a highly posi- 
tive value to an ethical or religious phenomenon tells us nothing at 
all about whether its consequences are also to be positively valued to 
the same extent. Factual assertions tell us nothing about these mat- 
ters, and the individual will judge them very differently according 
to his own religious and other evaluations. All this has nothing to 
do with the question under dispute. On the contrary, I am most 
emphatically opposed to the view that a realistic "science of ethics," 
i.e., the analysis of the influence which the ethical evaluations of a 
group of people have on their other conditions of life and of the influ- 
ences which the latter, in their turn, exert on the former, can produce 
an "ethics" which will be able to say anything about what should hap- 
pen. A "realistic" analysis of the astronomical conceptions of the 
Chinese, for instance — which showed the practical motives of their 
astronomy and the way in which they carried it on, at which results 
they arrived and why — would be equally incapable of demonstrating 
the correctness of this Chinese astronomy. Similarly the fact that the 
Roman surveyors or the Florentine bankers (the latter even in the 
division of quite large fortunes) often came to results which were irre- 
concilable with trigonometry or the multiplication table, raises no 
doubts about the latter. 

The empirical-psychological and historical analysis of certain 
evaluations with respect to the individual social conditions of their 


emergence and continued existence can never, under any circum- 
stances, lead to anything other than an "understanding" explanation. 
This is by no means negHgible. It is desirable not only because of 
the incidental personal (and non-scientific) effect : namely, being 
able "to do justice" more easily to the person who really or apparently 
thinks differently. It also has high scientific importance: (1) for 
purposes of an empirical causal analysis which attempts to establish 
the really decisive motives of human actions, and (2) for the com- 
munication of really divergent evaluations when one is discussing 
with a person who really or apparently has different evaluations from 
one's self. The real significance of a discussion of evaluations lies in 
its contribution to the understanding of what one's opponent — or 
one's self — really means — i.e., in understanding the evaluations 
which really and not merely allegedly separate the discussants and 
consequently in enabling one to take up a position with reference 
/ to this value. We are far removed, then, from the view that the 
' demand for the exclusion of value-judgments in empirical analysis 
implies that discussions of evaluations are sterile or meaningless. For 
the recognition of their evaluative character is indeed the presupposi- 
tion of all useful discussions of this sort. Such discussions assume 
an insight into the possibility of, in principle, unbridgeably divergent 
ultimate evaluations. "Understanding all" does not mean "pardon- 
ing all" nor does mere understanding of another's viewpoint as such 
lead, in principle, to its approval. Rather, it leads, at least as easily, 
and often with greater probability to the awareness of the issues and 
reasons which prevent agreement. This is a true proposition and it 
is certainly advanced by "discussions of evaluations." On the other 
handj this method because it is of a quite different character, cannot 
create either a normative ethic or in general the binding force of an 
ethical "imperative." Everyone knows, furthermore, that the attain- 
ment of such an ethic is externally, at least, impeded by the relativiz- 
ing effects of such discussions. This does not imply that they should 
be avoided on that account. Quite the contrary. An "ethical" con- 
viction which is dissolved by the psychological "understanding" of 
other values is about as valuable as religious beliefs which are de- 
stroyed by scientific knowledge, which is of course a quite frequent 
occurrence. Finally, when Schmollcr asserts that the exponents of 


"ethical neutrality" in the empirical disciplines can acknowledge only 
"formal" ethical truths (in the sense of the Critique of Practical 
Reason) a few comments are called for even though the problem, as 
such, is not integral to the present issue. 

First, we should reject Schmoller's implication that ethical impera- 
tives are identical with "cultural values" — even the highest of them. 
For, from a certain standpoint, "cultural values" are "obligatory" — 
even where they are in inevitable and irreconcilable conflict with 
every sort of ethics. Likewise, an ethic which rejects all cultural 
values is possible without any internal contradictions. In any case, 
these two value-spheres are not identical. The assertion that "form- 
al" propositions, for example, those in the Kantian ethics, contain 
no material directives, represents a grave but widespread misunder- 
standing. The possibility of a normative ethics is not brought into 
question by the fact that there are problems of a practical sort for 
which it cannot, by itself, offer unambiguous directives. (Among 
these practical problems, I believe, are included in a particular man- 
ner, certain institutional, i.e., "social-political" problems.) Nor is 
the possibility of normative ethics placed in doubt by the fact that 
ethics is not the only thing in the world that is "valid"; rather it 
exists alongside of other value-spheres, the values of which can, 
under certain conditions, be realized only by one who takes ethical 
"responsibility" upon himself. This applies particularly to political 
action. It would be pusillanimous, in my opinion, to attempt to deny 
this conflict. This conflict moreover is not peculiar to the relations 
between politics and ethics, as the customary juxtaposition of "pri- 
vate" and "political" morality would have it. Let us investigate 
some of the "limits" of ethics referred to above. 

The implications of the postulate of "justice" cannot be decided 
unambiguously by any ethic. Whether one, for example — as would 
correspond most closely with the views expressed by Schmoller — owes 
much to those who achieve much or whether one should demand 
much from those who can accomplish much; whether one should, 
e.g., in the name of justice (other considerations — for instance, that 
of the necessary "incentives" — being disregarded for the moment) 
accord great opportunities to those with eminent talents or whether 
on the contrary (like Babeuf) one should attempt to equalize the 



injustice of the unequal distribution of mental capacities through the 
rigorous provision that talented persons, whose talent gives them 
prestige, must not utilize their better opportunities for their own bene- 
fit — these questions cannot be definitely answered. The ethical 
problem in most social-political issues is, however, of this type. 

But even in the sphere of personal conduct there are quite spe- 
cific ethical problems which ethics cannot settle on the basis of its 
own presuppositions. These include above all, the basic questions: 
(a) whether the intrinsic value of ethical conduct — the "pure will" 
or the "conscience" as it used to be called — is sufficient for its justi- 
fication, following the maxim of the Christian moralists: "The Chris- 
tian acts rightly and leaves the consequences of his action to God"; 
or (b) whether the responsibility for the predictable consequences of 
the action is to be taken into consideration. All radical revolutionary 
political attitudes, particularly revolutionary "syndicalism," have their 
point of departure in the first postulate; all Realpolitik in the latter. 
Both invoke ethical maxims. But these maxims are in eternal con- 
flict — a conflict which cannot be resolved by means of ethics alone. 

Both these ethical maxims are of a strictly "formal" character. In 
this they resemble the well-known axioms of the Critique of Practical 
Reason. It is widely believed that as a result of this formalism, the 
latter did not generally contain substantive indications for the evalua- 
tion of action. This however is by no means true. Let us purposely 
take an example as distant as possible from politics to clarify the 
meaning of the much-discussed "merely formal" character of this 
type of ethics. If a man says of his erotic relationships with a woman, 
"At first our relationship was only a passion, but now it represents a 
value," — the cool matter-of-factness of the Kantian Critique would 
express the first half of this sentence as follows: "At first, each of us 
was a means for the other" and would therewith claim that the whole 
sentence is a special case of that well-known principle, which people 
have been singularly willing to view as a strictly historically condi- 
tioned expression of an "individualistic" attitude, whereas it was, in 
truth, a brilliant formulation which covered an immeasurably large 
number of ethical situations, which must however be correctly under- 
stood. In its negative form and excluding any statement as to what 


would be the opposite of treating another person "as a means," it 
obviously contains : ( 1 ) the recognition of autonomous, extra-ethical 
spheres, (2) the delimitation of the ethical sphere from these, and 
finally, (3) the determination of the sense in which different degrees 
of ethical status may be imputed to activity oriented towards extra- 
ethical values. Actually, those value-spheres which permit or pre- 
scribe the treatment of the other "only as a means" are quite hetero- 
geneous vis-a-vis ethics. This cannot be carried any further here; 
it shows, in any case, that the "formal" character of that highly 
abstract ethical proposition is not indifferent to the substantive content 
of the action. But the problem becomes even more complicated. 
The negative predicate itself, which was expressed in the words 
"only a passion," can be regarded as a degradation of what is most 
genuine and most appropriate in life, of the only, or, at any rate, 
the royal road away from the impersonal or supra-personal "value"- 
mechanisms which are hostile to life, away from enslavement to the 
lifeless routine of everyday existence and from the pretentiousness of 
unrealities handed down from on high. At any rate, it is possible to 
imagine a conception of this standpoint which — although scorning 
the use of the term "value" for the concrete facts of experience to 
which it refers — would constitute a sphere claiming its own "im- 
manent" dignity in the most extreme sense of the word. Its claims 
to this dignity would not be invalidated by its hostility or indifference 
to everything sacred or good, to every ethical or aesthetic law, and to 
every evaluation of cultural phenomena or personality. Rather its 
dignity might be claimed just because of this hostility or indifference. 
Whatever may be our attitude towards this claim, it is still not dem- 
onstrable or "refutable" with the means afforded by any "science." 
Every empirical consideration of this situation would, as the 
elder Mill remarked, lead to the acknowledgment of absolute poly- 
theism as the only appropriate metaphysic. A non-empirical approach 
oriented to the interpretation of meaning, or in other words, a genuine 
axiology could not, on proceeding further, overlook the fact that a 
system of "values," be it ever so well-ordered, is unable to handle 
the situation's crucial issue. It is really a question not only of 
alternatives between values but of an irreconcilable death-struggle, 
like that between "God" and the "Devil." Between these, neither 


relativization nor compromise is possible. At least, not in the true 
sense. There are, of course, as everyone realizes in the course of his 
life, compromises, both in fact and in appearance, and at every point. 
In almost every important attitude of real human beings, the value- 
spheres cross and interpenetrate. The shallowness of our routinized 
daily existence in the most significant sense of the word consists 
indeed in the fact that the persons who are caught up in it do not 
become aware, and above all do not wish to become aware, of this 
partly psychologically, part pragmatically conditioned motley of 
irreconcilably antagonistic values. They avoid the choice between 
"God" and the "Devil" and their own ultimate decision as to which 
of the conflicting values will be dominated by the one, and which by 
the other. The fruit of the tree of knowledge, which is distasteful to 
the complacent but which is, nonetheless, inescapable, consists in the 
insight that every single important activity and ultimately life as a 
whole, if it is not to be permitted to run on as an event in nature but 
is instead to be consciously guided, is a series of ultimate decisions 
through vvhich the soul — as in Plato — chooses its own fate, i.e., the 
meaning of its activity and existence. Probably the cru des t misunder- 
standing which the representatives of this point of view constantly 
encounter is to be found in the claim that this standpoint is "rela- 
tivistic" — that it is a philosophy of life which is based on a view of 
the interrelations of the value-spheres which is diametrically opposite 
to the one it actually holds, and whic h (an be held with consistency 
only if it is based on a very special type of ("organic") metaphysics. 
Returning to our special case, it may be asserted without the 
possibility of a doubt that as soon as one seeks to derive concrete direc- 
tives from practical political (particularly economic and social- 
political) evaluations, (1) the indispensable means, and (2) the 
inevitable repercussions, and (3) the thus conditioned competition of 
numerous possible evaluations in their practical consequences, are 
all that an empirical discipline can demonstrate with the means at its 
disposal. Philosophical disciplines can go further and lay bare the 
"meaning" of evaluations, i.e., their ultimate meaningful structure and 
their meaningful consequences, in other words, they can indicate 
their "place" within the totality of all the possible "ultimate" evalua- 
tions and delimit their spheres of meaningful validity. Even such 


simple questions as the extent to which an end should sanction un- 
avoidable means, or the extent to which undesired repercussions 
should be taken into consideration, or how conflicts between several 
concretely conflicting ends are to be arbitrated, are entirely matters 
of choice or compromise. There is no (rational or empirical) scien- 
tific procedure of any kind whatsoever which can provide us with a 
decision here. The social sciences, which are strictly empirical sciences, 
are the least fitted to presume to save the individual the difficulty of 
making a choice^ and they should therefore not create the impression 
that they can do so. 

Finally it should be explicitly noted that the recognition of the 
existence of this situation is, as far as our disciplines are concerned, 
completely independent of the attitude one takes toward the very 
brief remarks made above regarding the theory of value. For there 
is, in general, no logically tenable standpoint from which it could be 
denied except a hierarchical ordering of values unequivocally pre- 
scribed by ecclesiastical dogmas. I need not consider whether there 
really are persons who assert that such problems as (a) does a con- 
crete event occur thus and so or otherwise, or (b) why do the concrete 
events in question occur thus and so and not otherwise, or (c) does 
a given event ordinarily succeed another one according to a certain 
law and with what degree of probability — are not basically differ- 
ent from the problems: {ai) what should one do in a concrete situa- 
tion, or (bt) from which standpoints may those situations be satisfac- 
tory or unsatisfactoiy, or (o) whether they are — whatever their 
form — generally formulatable propositions (axioms) to which these 
standpoints can be reduced. There are many who insist further that 
there is no logical disjunction between such equiries as, {a) in which 
direction will a concrete situation (or generally, a situation of a cer- 
tain type) develop and with what greater degree of probability in 
which particular direction than in any other and (b) a problem 
which investigates whether one should attempt to influence the de- 
velopment of a certain situation in a given direction — regardless of 
whether it be the one in which it would also move if left alone, or 
the opposite direction or one which is different from either. There 
are those who assert that (a) the problem as to which attitudes 
towards any given problem specified persons or an unspecified number 


of persons under specified conditions will probably or even certainly 
take and {b) the problem as to whether the attitude which emerged 
in the situation referred to above is right — arc in no way difTerent 
from one another. The proponents of such views will resist any state- 
ment to the effect that the problems in the above-cited jutxapositions 
do not have even the slightest connection with one another and that 
they really are "to be separated from one another." These persons 
will insist furthermore that their position is not in contradiction with 
the requirements of scientific thinking. Such an attitude is by no 
means the same as that of an author who conceding the absolute 
heterogeneity of both types of problems, nevertheless, in one and the 
same book, on one and the same page, indeed in a principal and 
subordinate clause of one and the same sentence, makes statements 
bearing on each of the two heterogeneous problems referred to above. 
Such a procedure is strictly a matter of choice. All that can be de- 
manded of him is that he does not unwittingly (or just to be clever) 
deceive his readers concerning the absolute heterogeneity of the 
problems. Personally I am of the opinion that nothing is too 
"pedantic" if it is useful for the avoidance of confusions. 

Thus, the discussion of value-judgments can have only the fol- 
lowing functions: 

a) The elaboration and explication of the ultimate, internally 
"consistent" value-axioms, from which the divergent attitudes are de- 
rived. People are often in error, not only about their opponent's 
evaluations, but also about their own. This procedure is essentially 
an operation which begins with concrete particular evaluations and 
analyzes their meanings and then moves to the more general level of 
irreducible evaluations. It docs not use the techniques of an empirical 
discipline and it produces no new knowledge of facts. Its "validity" 
is similar to that of logic. 

b) The deduction of "implications" (for those accepting certain 
value-judgments) which follow from certain irreducible value-axioms, 
when the practical evaluation of factual situations is based on these 
axioms alone. This deduction depends on one hand, on logic, and 
on the other, on empirical observations for the completest possible 
casuistic analyses of all such empirical situations as are in principle 
subject to practical evaluation. 


c) The determination of the factual consequences which the real- 
ization of a certain practical evaluation must have : ( 1 ) in consequence 
of being bound to certain indispensable means, (2) in consequence of 
the inevitability of certain, not directly desired repercussions. These 
purely empirical observations may lead us to the conclusion that (a) 
it is absolutely impossible to realize the object of the preference, even 
in a remotely approximate way, because no means of carrying it out 
can be discovered; (b) the more or less considerable improbability of 
its complete or even approximate realization, either for the same 
reason or because of the probable appearance of undesired repercus- 
sions which might directly or indirectly render the realization unde- 
sirable; (c) the necessity of taking into account such means or such 
repercussions as the proponent of the practical postulate in question 
did not consider, so that his evaluation of end, means, and repercus- 
sions becomes a new problem for him. Finally: d) the uncovering 
of new axioms (and the postulates to be drawn from them) which 
the proponent of a practical postulate did not take into considera- 
tion. Since he was unaware of those axioms, he did not formulate 
an attitude towards them although the execution of his own postulate 
conflicts with the others either (1) in principle or (2) as a result of 
the practical consequences, (i.e., logically or actually). In (1) it is 
a matter in further discussion of problems of type (a) ; in (2), of 
type (c). 

Far from being meaningless, value-discussions of this type can be 
of the greatest utility as long as their potentialities are correctly 

The utility of a discussion of practical evaluations at the right 
place and in the correct sense is, however, by no means exhausted 
with such direct "results." When correctly conducted, it can be ex- 
tremely valuable for empirical research in the sense that it provides 
it with problems for investigation. 

The problems of the empirical disciplines are, of course, to be 
solved "non-evaluatively." They are not problems of evaluation. But 
the problems of the social sciences are selected by the value-relevance 
of the phenomena treated. Concerning the significance of the expres- 
sion "relevance to values" I refer to my earlier writings and above 
all to the works of Hcinrich Rickert and will forbear to enter upon 


that question here. It should only be recalled that the expression 
"relevance to values" refers simply to the philosophical interpretation 
of that specifically scientific "interest" which determines the selection 
of a given subject-matter and the problems of an empirical analysis. 

In empirical investigation, no "practical evaluations" are legiti- 
mated by this strictly logical fact. But together with historical ex- 
perience, it shows that cultural (i.e., evaluative) interests give purely 
empirical scientific work its ^^irection.; It is now clear that these 
evaluative interests can be made more explicit and differentiated by 
the analysis of value-judgments. These considerably reduce, or at any 
rate lighten, the task of "value-interpretation" — an extremely impor- 
tant preparation for empirical work — for the scientific investigator 
and especially the historian.^ 

Instead of entering once more on this basic methodological prob- 
lem of value-relation, I will deal in greater detail with certain issues 
which are of practical importance for our disciplines. 

The belief is still widespread that one should, and must, or at any 
rate, can derive value-judgments from factual assertions about 
"trends." But even from the most unambiguous "trends," unambigu- 
ous norms can be derived only with regard to the prospectively most 
appropriate means — and then only when the irreducible evaluation 
is already given. The evaluations themselves cannot be derived from 
these "tendencies." Here, of course, the term "means" is being used 
in the broadest sense. One whose irreducible value is, for in- 
stance, the power of the state, may view an absolutistic or a radical 
democratic constitution as the relatively more appropriate means, 
depending on the circumstances. It would be highly ludicrous to 
interpret a change from a preference for one of these types of con- 

^Since not only the distinction between evaluation and value-relations but 
also the distinction between ev-aluation and value-interpretation (i.e., the 
elaboration of the various possible meaningful attitudes towards a given phe- 
nomena) is very often not clearly made and since the consequent ambiguities 
impede the analysis of the logical nature of history, I will refer the reader 
to the remarks in "Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences."' 
These remarks are not, however, to be regarded as in any way conclusive. 


stitutions to another as a change in the "ultimate" evaluation itself. 
Obviously, however, the individual is constantly being faced with the 
problem as to whether he should give up his hopes in the realizability 
of his practical evaluations if he is aware of a clear-cut developmental 
tendency (a) which necessitates, if the goal is to be realized, the 
application of new means which are ethically or otherwise dubious; 
or (6) which requires the taking into account of repercussions which 
are abhorrent to him, or (c) which finally renders his efforts quixotic 
as far as their success is concerned. But the perception of such "de- 
velopmental tendencies" which are modifiable only with more or 
less difficulty by no means represents a unique case. Each new fact 
may necessitate the re-adjustment of the relations between end and 
indispensable means, between desired goals and unavoidable sub- 
sidiary consequences. But whether this readjustment should take 
place and what should be the practical conclusions to be drawn there- 
from is not answerable by empirical science — in fact it can not be 
answered by any science whatsoever. One may, for example, demon- 
strate ever so concretely to the convinced syndicalist that his action 
is socially "useless" i.e., it is not likely to be successful in the modifica- 
tion of the external class position of the proletariat, and that he even 
weakens this greatly by generating "reactionary" attitudes, but still 
— for him — if he is really faithful to his convictions — this proves 
nothing. And this is so, not because he is mad but because from his 
point of view, he can be "right" — as we shall discuss shortly. On 
the whole, people are strongly inclined to adapt themselves to what 
promises success, not only — as is self-evident — with respect to the 
means or to the extent that they seek to realize their ideals, but even 
to the extent of giving up these very ideals. In Germany this mode of 
behavior is glorified by the name Realpolitik. In any case, it is not 
easily intelligible why the practitioners of an empirical science should 
feel the need of furthering this kind of behavior by providing their 
salute of approval for existing "trends." Nor do we see why empirical 
scientists should transform the adaptation to these "trends" from 
an ultimate value-problem, to be solved only by the individual as his 
conscience dictates with reference to each particular situation, into 
a principle ostensibly based on the authority of a "science." 

In a sense, successful political action is always the "art of the 


possible." Nonetheless, the possible is often reached only by striving 
to attain the impossible that lies beyond it. Those specific qualities 
of our culture, which, despite our differences in viewpoint, we all 
esteem more or less positively, are not the products of the only con- 
sistent ethic of " 'adaptation' to the possible," namely, the bureau- 
cratic morality of Confucianism. I, for my part, will not try to 
dissuade the nation from the view that actions are to be judged not 
merely by their instrumental value but by their intrinsic value as 
well. In any case, the failure to recognize this fact impedes our under- 
standing of reality. To cite the syndicalist again: it is senseless even 
logically to criticize in terms of its "instrumental value" an action 
which — if consistent — must be guided by its "intrinsic value." The 
central concern of the really consistent syndicalist must be to pre- 
serve in himself certain attitudes which seem to him to be absolutely 
valuable and sacred, as well as to induce them in others, whenever 
possible. The ultimate aim of his actions which are, indeed, doomed 
in advance to absolute failure, is to give him the subjective certainty 
that his attitudes are "genuine," i.e., have the power of "proving" 
themselves in action and of showing that they arc not mere swagger. 
For this purpose, such actions are perhaps the only means. Aside 
from that — if it is consistent — its kingdom, like that of every 
"absolute value" ethics, is not of this world. It can be shown strictly 
"scientifically" that this conception of his ideal is the only internally 
consistent one and cannot be refuted by external "facts." I think 
that a service is thereby rendered to the proponents as well as the 
opponents of syndicalism — one which they can rightly demand of 
science. Nothing is ever gained in any scientific sense whatever by 
"on the one hand," and "on the other," by seven reasons "for" and 
six "against" a certain event (for instance, the general strike) and 
by weighing them off against one another in cameralistic fashion or 
like modern Chinese administrative memoranda. \ The task of an 
ethically neutral science in the analysis of syndicalism is completed 
when it has reduced the syndicalistic standpoint to its most rational 
and internally consistent form and has empirically investigated the 
pre-conditions for its existence and its practical consequences. Whether 
one should or should not be a syndicalist can never be proved without 
reference to very definite metaphysical premises which are never 


demonstrable by science. ; If an officer blows himself up with his 
fortifications rather than surrender, his action may, in a given case, 
be absolutely futile in every respect, but the existence or non-existence 
of the attitude which impels such an action without inquiring into 
its utility is not a matter of indiflference. In any case, it would be 
just as incorrect to designate it as "meaningless" as would be such 
a designation of the consistent syndicalist's action. It is not particu- 
larly appropriate for a professor to recommend such Cato-like acts 
of courage from the comfortable heights of a university chair. But 
he is also not required to laud the opposite extreme and to declare 
that it is a duty to accommodate one's ideals to the opportunities 
which are rendered available by existing "trends" and situations. 

We have been making repeated use of the . expression "adapta- 
tion" {Anpassung) in a meaning which has been sufficiently clear 
in each context. But actually it has two meanings: (1) the adapta- 
tion of the means for attaining a given ultimate goal in a particular 
situation {Realpolitik in the narrower sense), and (2) adaptation 
to the chances, real or imaginary, for immediate success in the 
selection of one's ultimate value-standpoint from among the many 
possible ultimate value-standpoints (this is the type of Realpolitik 
which our government has followed for the last 27 years with such 
notable success!). But its connotations are by no means exhausted 
with these two. For this reason, I think that it is advisable to drop 
this widely misused term entirely when we discuss our problem — 
evaluative problems as well as others. It is entirely ambiguous as a 
scientific term, although it perpetually recurs both as an "explana- 
tion" (of the occurrence of certain ethical views in certain social 
groups under certain conditions) and as an "evaluation" (e.g., of 
these factually existing ethical views which are said to be objectively 
"appropriate" and hence objectively "correct" and valuable). 

It is not very helpful in any of these usages since it must always 
be interpreted in order for the propositions in which it is used to be 
understood. It was originally used in biology and if it is understood 
in its biological meaning, i.e., as the relatively determinable chance, 
given by the environment, for a social group to maintain its own 
psycho-physical heritage through reproduction, then the social strata 
which are economically the best provided for and whose lives are the 


most rationally regulated, are according to birth statistics, the worst 
adapted. The few Indians who lived in the Salt Lake area before 
the Mormon migration were in the biological sense — as well as in 
all the other of its many conceivable empirical meanings — just as 
well or poorly "adapted" as the later populous Mormon settlements. 
This term adds absolutely nothing to our empirical understanding, 
although we easily delude ourselves that it does. Only in the case of 
two otherwise absolutely identical organizations, can one assert that 
a particular concrete difTerence is more conducive to the continued 
existence of the organization which has that characteristic, and which 
is therefore "better adapted" to the given conditions. But as regards 
the evaluation of the above situation, one person may assert that the 
greater numbers and the material and other accomplishments and 
characteristics which the Mormons brought there and developed, 
are a proof of the superiority of the Mormons over the Indians, while 
another person who abominates the means and subsidiary effects 
involved in the Mormon ethics which are responsible at least in part 
for those achievements, may prefer the desert and the romantic exist- 
ence of the Indians. No science of any kind can purport to be able to 
dissuade these persons from their respective views. Here we are 
already confronted with the problem of the unarbitratable reconcilia- 
tion of end, means, and subsidiary consequences. 

Strictly and exclusively empirical analysis can provide a solution 
only where it is a question of a means adequate to the realization of 
an absolutely unambiguously given end. The proposition: x is the 
only means by which y can be attained, is in fact merely the reverse 
of the proposition: y is the effect of x. The term "adaptedness" 
(and all other related terms) do not provide — and this is the 
main thing — even the slightest hint about the value-judgments 
which they contain and which they actually obscure — just as does 
for example, the recently favored term "human economy" {Men- 
schenokonomie) which in my opinion is fundamentally confused. De- 
pending on how one uses the term, either everything or nothing in 
society is "adapted." Conflict cannot be excluded from social life. 
One can change its means, its object, even its fundamental direction 
and its bearers, but it cannot be eliminated. There can be, instead 
of an external struggle of antagonistic persons for external objects, an 


inner struggle of mutually loving persons for subjective values and 
therewith, instead of external compulsion, an inner control (in the 
form of erotic or charitable devotion). Or it can take the form of a 
subjective conflict in the individual's own mind. It is always present 
and its influence is often greatest when it is least noticed, i.e., the 
more its course takes the form of indifferent or complacent passivity 
or self-deception, or when it operates as "selection." "Peace" is noth- 
ing more than a change in the form of the conflict or in the antagon- 
ists or in the objects of the conflict, or finally in the chances of 
selection. Obviously, absolutely nothing of a general character can 
be said as to whether such shifts can withstand examination accord- 
ing to an ethical or other value-judgment. Only one thing is indis- 
putable: every type of social order, without exception, must, if one 
wishes to evaluate it, be examined with reference to the opportunities 
which it affords to certain types of persons to rise to positions of super- 
iority through the operation of the various objective and subjective 
selective factors. For empirical investigation is not really exhaustive 
nor does there exist the necessary factual basis for an evaluation, 
regardless of whether it is consciously subjective or claims objective 
validity. This should at least be borne in mind by our many colleagues 
who believe that they can analyze social change by means of the 
concept of "progress." This leads to a closer consideration of this 
important concept. 

One can naturally use the term "progress" in an absolutely non- 
evaluative way if one identifies it with the "continuation" of some 
concrete process of change viewed in isolation. But in most cases, ^ 
the situation is more complicated. We will review here a fe\s' cases 
from difTcrcnt fields, in which the entanglement with value-judgments 
is most intricate. 

fin the sphere of the emotional, affective content of our own sub- 
jective behavior, the quantitative increase and — what is usually 
bound up with it — the qualitative diversification of the possible 
modes of response can be designated as the progress of psychic,^"dif- ^y^ 
ferentiation" without reference to any evaluations. This usually im- 
plies the preference for an increase in the "scope" or "capacity" of 
a concrete "mind" or — what is already an ambiguous term — of 
an "epoch" (as in Simmel's Schopenhauer und Nietzche) . 


Undoubtedly such a "progressive difTcrentiation" docs exist. Of 
course, it must be recognized that it is not always really present when 
it is believed to be. An increased responsivejiess to nuances — due 
sometimes to the increased rationalization and intellectualization of 
life and sometimes to the increase in the amount of importance which 
the individual attributes to all his actions (even the least significant) 
— can very often lead to the illusion of progressive difTcrentiation. 
This responsiveness can, of course, either indicate or pron^ote this 
progressive difTcrentiation. Appearances are deceitful, however, and 
I think that the range of this illusion is rather considerable. Be that 
as it may, it exists, and whether one designates progressive difTcr- 
entiation as "progress" is a matter of terminological convenience. But 
as to whether one should evaluate it as "progress" in the sense of an 
increase in "inner richness" cannot be decided by any empirical 
discipline. The empirical disciplines have nothing at all to say about 
whether the various possibilities in the sphere of feeling which have 
just emerged or which have been but recently raised to the level of 
consciousness and the new "tensions" and "problems" which are often 
associated with them are to be evaluated in one way or another. 
But whoever wishes to state a value-judgment regarding the fact of 
differentiation as such — which no empirical discipline can forbid — 
and seeks a point of view from which this can be done, will come 
upon the question as to the price which is "paid" for this process 
(insofar as it is more than an intellectualistic illusion). We should 
not overlook the fact that the pursuit of "experience" — which has 
been having a great vogue in Germany — might, to a large extent, be 
the product of a diminishing power to stand the stress of everyday 
life and that the publicity which the individual feels the increasing 
need of giving to his "experience," can perhaps be evaluated as a 
loss in the sense of privacy and therewith in the sense of propriety 
and dignity. At any rate, in the sphere of the evaluation of subjec- 
tive experience, "progressive differentiation" is to be identified with 
an increase in "value" only in the intellectualistic sense of an increase 
in self-awareness or of an increasing capacity for expression and 

The situation is somrwhat more complicated if we consider the 
applicability of the (oiucpt of "progress" (in the evaluative sense) 


in the sphere of art. It is from time to time energetically disputed, 
rightly or wrongly, depending on the sense in which it is meant. There 
has never been an evaluative approach to art for which the dichotomy 
between "art" and "non-art" has sufficed. Every approach distin- 
guishes between "attempt" and "realization," between the values of 
various realizations and between the complete fulfillment and that 
which was abortive in one or more points but which was not never- 
theless entirely worthless. This is true for the treatment not only of 
a concrete, individual creative action, but also for the artistic striv- 
ings of whole epochs. The concept of "progress" when applied to such 
situations is of trivial significance because of its usual utilization for 
purely technical problems. But in itself it is not meaningless. 

The problem is quite different as far as the purely empirical 
history of art and the empirical sociology of art are concerned. For 
the first, there is naturally no "progress" in art with respect to the 
aesthetic evaluation of works of art as meaningful realizations. An 
aesthetic evaluation cannot be arrived at with the means afforded 
by an empirical approach and it is indeed quite outside its province. 
The empirical history of art can use only a technical, rational con- 
cept of "progress," the utility of which follows from the fact that it 
limits itself entirely to the establishment of the technical means 
which a certain type of artistic impulse applies when the end is 
definitely given. The significance of these unpretentious investiga- 
tions is easily underestimated or else they are misinterpreted in the 
fashion of the modish but quite unconsequential and muddle-headed 
type of "connoisseur" who claims to have "understood" an artist as 
a result of having peered through the blinds of the artist's studio and 
examined what is obvious in his style, i.e., his "manner." "Tech- 
nical" progress, correctly understood, does indeed belong to the 
domain of art history, because it (and its influence on the artistic 
impulse) is a type of phenomenon which is determinable in a 
strictly empirical way, i.e., without aesthetic evaluation. Let us cite 
certain illustrations which will clarify the meaning of "technical" 
as used in the history of art. 

The origin of the Gothic style was primarily the result of the 
technically successful solution of an architectural problem, namely, 
the problem of the technical optimum in the construction of abut- 


merits for the support of the cross-arched vauh, in connection with 
certain details which we shall not discuss here. Quite concrete archi- 
tectural problems were solved. The knowledge that in this way a 
certain type of vaulting of non-quadratic areas was also made possible 
awakened the passionate enthusiasm of the early and perhaps forever 
unknown architects to whom we owe the development of the new 
architectural style. Their technical rationalism applied the new prin- 
ciple with a thoroughgoing consistency. Their artistic impulse used 
it as a means for fulfilling artistic tasks which had until then been 
scarcely suspected and swung sculpture in the direction of a "feeling 
for the body" which was stimulated primarily by the new methods 
of treating space and surface in architecture. The convergence of 
this primarily technically conditioned revolution with certain largely 
socially and religiously conditioned feelings supplied most of those 
problems on which the artists of the Gothic epoch worked. When 
the history and sociology of art have uncovered these purely factual 
technical, social, and psychological conditions of the new style, they 
have exhausted their purely empirical task. In doing so, they do not 
"evaluate" the Gothic style in relation, for instance, to the Romanesque 
or the Renaissance style, which, for its own part, was very strongly 
oriented towards the technical problems of the cupola and therewith 
toward the socially conditioned changes in the architectural problem- 
complex. Nor, as long as it remains empirical, does art-history 
"evaluate" the individual building esthetically. The interest in works 
of art and in their aesthetically relevant individual characteristics is 
heteronomously given. Tt is given by the aesthetic value of the work 
of art, which cannot be established by the empirical disciplines with 
the means which they have at their disposal. 

The same is true in the history of music. From the standpoint 
of the interests of the modern European ("value-relevance"!) its 
central problem is: why did the development of harmonic music 
from the universally popularly developed folk polyphony take place 
only in Europe and in a particular epoch, whereas everywhere else 
the rationalization of music took another and most often quite oppo- 
site direction: interval development by division (largely the fourth) 
instead of through the harmonic phrase (the fifth). Thus at the 
center stands the problem of the origin of the third in its harmonic 


meaningful interpretation, i.e., as a unit in the triad; further: the 
harmonic chromatics; and beyond that, the modem musical rhythm 
(the heavy and light beats) — instead of purely metronomic measur- 
ing — a rhythm without which modem instrumental music is incon- 
ceivable. Here again we are concerned primarily with problems of 
purely technical "progress." The fact, for example, that chromatic 
music was known long before harmonic music as a means of ex- 
pressing "passion" is shown by the ancient chromatic (apparently 
homophonous) music for the passionate dochmiacs in the recently 
discovered Euripides fragments. The difTerence between ancient mu- 
sic and the chromatic music which the great musical experimenters 
of the Renaissance created in a tremendous rational striving for new 
musical discoveries and indeed for the purpose of giving musical 
form to "passion," lay not in the impulse to artistic expression but 
rather in the technical means of expression. The technical Innova- 
tion, however, was that this chromatic music developed into our 
harmonic interval and not into the Hellenic melodic half and quarter 
tone distance. This development, in its turn, had its causes in the 
preceding solutions of technical problems. This was the case in the 
creation of rational notation (without which modem composition 
would not even be conceivable) ; even before this, in the invention 
of certain instruments which were conducive to the harmonic inter- 
pretation of musical Intervals; and above all, in the creation of 
rationally polyphonous vocal music. In the early Middle Ages, the 
monks of the northern Occidental missionary area had a major share 
in these accomplishments without even a suspicion of the later signifi- 
cance of their action. They rationalized the popular folk polyphony 
for their own purposes instead of following the Byzantine monks In 
allowing the music to be arranged for them by the Hellenically trained 
melopoios. Certain socially and religiously conditioned characteris- 
tics of the Internal and external situation of the Occidental Christian 
church enabled this musical problem-complex which was essentially 
"technical" in nature, to emerge from the rationalism peculiar to 
Occidental monastlclsm. On the other hand, the adoption and ration- 
alization of the dance measure, which Is the source of the musical 
form expressed in the sonata, was conditioned by certain forms of 
social life in the Renaissance. Finally the development of the piano- 


forte — one of the most important technical instruments of modern 
musical development — and its dissemination in the bourgeois class, 
was rooted in the specific character of the rooms in the buildings in 
the North European culture area. All these are "progressive" steps 
in musical technique and they have greatly influenced the history of 
music. The empirical history of music can and must analyze these 
features of its development without undertaking, on its own part, an 
aesthetic evaluation of the worth of musical art. Technical "progress" 
has quite often led to achievements which, when evaluated aesthetic- 
ally, were highly imperfect. The focus of interest, i.e., the object 
which is to be historically explained, is heteronomously given to the 
history of music by its aesthetic significance. 

In the field of painting, the elegant unpretentiousness of the formu- 
lation of the problem in Wolfflin's Klassische Kunst is a quite out- 
standing example of the possibilities of empirical work. 

The complete distinction between the evaluative sphere and the 
empirical sphere emerges characteristically in the fact that the appli- 
cation of a certain particularly "progressive" technique tells us nothing 
at all about the aesthetic value of a work of art. Works of art with 
an ever so "primitive" technique - — for example, paintings made in 
ignorance of perspective — may aesthetically be absolutely equal to 
those created completely by means of a rational technique, assuming 
of course that the artist confined himself to tasks to which "primi- 
tive" technique was adequate. The creation of new techniques signi- 
fies primarily increasing differentiation and merely offers the possibility 
of increasing the "richness" of a work of art in the sense of intensify- 
ing its value. Actually it has often had the reverse effect of "impov- 
erishing" the feeling for form. Empirically and causally speaking, 
however, changes in "technique" (in the highest sense of the word) 
are indeed the most important factors in the development of art. 

Not only art-historians, but historians in general usually declare 
that they will not allow themselves to be deprived of the right of 
asserting political, cultural, ethical, and aesthetic value-judgments. 
They even claim that they cannot do their work without them. Meth- 
odology is neither able nor does it aim to prescribe to anyone what 
he should put into a literary work. It claims for itself only the right 
to state that certain problems are logically different from certain 


other problems and that their confusion in a discussion results in the 
mutual misunderstanding of the discussants. It claims furthermore 
that the treatment of one of these types of problems with the means 
afforded by empirical science or by logic is meaningful, but that the 
same procedure is impossible in the case of the other. A careful 
examination of historical works quickly shows that when the historian 
begins to "evaluate," causal analysis almost always ceases — to the 
prejudice of the scientific results. He runs the risk, for example, of 
"explaining" as the result of a "mistake" or of a "decline" what is 
perhaps the consequence of ideals different from his own, and so he 
fails in his most important task, that is, the task of "understanding." 
The misunderstanding may be explained by reference to two factors. 
The first, to remain in the sphere of art, derives from the fact the 
artistic works may be treated, aside from the purely aesthetically evalu- 
ative approach and the purely empirical-causal approach, by still a 
third, i.e., the \'?i\uc-inter pretative approach. There cannot be the 
least doubt as to the intrinsic value of this approach and its in- 
dispensability for every historian. Nor is there any doubt that the 
ordinary reader of historical studies of art also expects this sort of 
treatment. It must, however, be emphasized that in its logical struc- 
ture, it is not identical with the empirical approach. 

Thus it may be said; whoever wishes to do empirical research 
in the history of art must be able to "understand" artistic productions. 
This is, obviously enough, inconceivable without the capacity for 
evaluating them. The same thing is true, obviously, for the political 
historian, the literary historian, the historian of religion, or of philoso- 
phy. Of course, this is completely irrelevant to the logical structure 
of historical study. 

We will treat of this later. Here we should discuss only the sense 
in which, apart from aesthetic evaluation, one can speak of "progress" 
in the history of art. It has been seen that this concept has a techni- 
cal and rational significance, referring to the means used for the 
attainment of an artistic end. In this sense it is relevant to the empiri- 
cal analysis of art. It is now time to examine this concept of 
"rational" progress and to analyze its empirical or non-empirical 
character. For what has been said above is only a particular case 
of a universal phenomenon. 


Windelband's definition of the subject-matter of his History of 
Philosophy (Tuft's translation, p. 9, 2nd edition) as ". . . the process 
in which European humanity has embodied in scientific conceptions 
its views of the world . , ." conditions the practical use in his own 
brilliant \vork of a specific conception of "progress" which is derived 
from this cultural value-relevance. This concept of progress which, 
although by no means imperative for every "history" of philosophy, 
applies, given the same cultural value-relevance, not only to a history 
of philosophy and to the history of any other intellectual activity but 
(here I differ from Windelband [p. 7, No. 1, Section 2}) to every 
kind of history. Nonetheless, in what follows we will use the term, 
rational "progress" in the sense in which it is employed in sociology 
and economics. European and American social and economic life 
is "rationalized" in a specific way and in a specific sense. The expla- 
nation of this rationalization and the analysis of related phenomena 
is one of the chief tasks of our disciplines. Therewith there re-emerges 
the problem, touched on, but left open in our discussion of the history 
of art: namely, what is really meant when we designate a series of 
events as "rational progress"? 

There is a recurrence here of the widespread confusion of the 
three following meanings of the term "progress"; (1) merely "pro- 
gressive" diflferentiation, (2) progress of technical rationality in the 
utilization of means and, finally (3) increase in value. A subjectively 
"rational" action is not identical with a rationally "correct" action, 
i.e., one which uses the objectively correct means in accord with 
scientific knowledge. Rather, it means only that the subjective inten- 
tion of the individual is planfully directed to the means which are 
regarded as correct for a given end. Thus a progressive subjective 
rationalization of conduct is not necessarily the same as progress in 
the direction of rationally or technically "correct" behavior. Magic, 
for example, has been just as systematically "rationalized" as physics. 
The earliest intentionally rational therapy involved the almost com- 
plete rejection of the cure of empirical symptoms by empirically tested 
herbs and potions in favor of the exorcism of (what was thought to 
be) the "real" (magical, daemonic) cause of the ailment. Formally, 
it had exactly the same highly rational structure as many of the 
most important developments in modern therapy. But we do not 


look on these priestly magical therapies as "progress" towards a "cor- 
rect" mode of action as contrasted with rule-of-thumb empiricism. 
Furthermore, not every "progressive" step in the use of "correct" 
means is achieved by "progress" in subjective rationality. An increase 
in subjectively rational conduct can lead to objectively more "effi- 
cient" conduct but it is not inevitable. But [if, in a single case, the 
proposition is correct that measure x is, let us say, the only means 
of attaining the result y^ and if this proposition — which is empir- 
ically establishable — is consciously used by people for the orientation 
of their activity to attain the result y, then their conduct is oriented 
in a "technically correct" manner. If any aspect of human conduct 
(of any sort whatsoever) is oriented in a technically more correct 
manner than it was previously, technical progress cxists.l Only an 
empirical discipline, which accepts the standard as unambiguously 
given, can determine whether "technical progress" exists. 

Given a specified end, then it is possible to use the terms "tech- 
nical correctness" and "technical progress" in the application of 
means, without any insuperable dangers of ambiguity. ("Technique" 
is used here in its broadest sense, as rational action in general: in all 
spheres, including the political, social, educational, and propagandist 
manipulation and domination of human beings.) Only when a spe- 
cified condition is taken as a standard can we speak of progress in a 
given sphere of technique, for example, commercial technique or legal 
technique. We should make explicit that the term "progress" even 
in this sense is usually only approximately precise because the various 
technically rational principles conflict with one another and a com- 
promise can never be achieved from an "objective" standpoint but 
only from that of the concrete interests involved at the time. We 
may also speak of "economic" progress towards a relative optimum 
of want-satisfaction under conditions of given resources — if it is 
assumed that there are given wants, that all these wants and their 
rank order are accepted, and that finally a given type of economic 
order exists — and with the reservation that preferences regarding 
the duration, certainty and exhaustiveness, respectively, of the satis- 

''This is an empirical statement and nothing but a simple inversion of the 
causal proposition : y is an eflFect of x. 


faction of these wants may often conflict with each other. 

Attempts have been made to derive the possibihty of unambig- 
uous and thereby purely economic evaluations from this. A charac- 
teristic example of this is the case cited by Professor Liefmann 
concerning the intentional destruction of goods in order to satisfy 
the profit-interests of the producers when the price has fallen below 
cost. This action is then "objectively" evaluated as "economically 
correct." But the flaw in this assertion is that it — and every smiliar 
statement — treats a number of presuppositions as self-evident when 
they really are not self-evident: first, that the interests of the individ- 
ual not only often do continue beyond his death, but that they should 
always do so. Without this leap from the "is" category to the "ought" 
category, this allegedly "purely economic" evaluation could not be 
made in any clear-cut fashion. Otherwise one cannot speak of the 
interests of producers and consumers as if they were the interests of 
persons who live on indefinitely. The individual's taking into account 
of the interests of his heirs is, however, not a purely economic datum. 
For concrete human beings are substituted impersonal interests who 
use "capital" in "plants" and who exist for the sake of these plants. 
This is a fiction which is useful for theoretical purposes, but even as 
a fiction it does not apply to the position of the worker, especially the 
childless worker. Secondly, it ignores the fact of "class position" 
which, under competitive market conditions, can interfere with the 
provision of certain strata of consumers with goods, not only in spite 
of, but indeed in consequence of the "optimally" profitable distribu- 
tion of capital and labor in the various branches of production. That 
"optimally" profitable distribution which conditions the constancy 
of capital investment, is for its part, dependent on the distribution of 
power between the different classes, the consequences of which in 
concrete cases, can (but need not necessarily) weaken the position 
of those strata on the market. Thirdly, it ignores the possibility of 
persistently irreconcilable conflicts of interest between members 
of various political groups and takes an a priori position in favor of 
the "free trade argument." The latter is thus transformed from a 
very useful heuristic instrument into a by no means self-evident evalu- 
ation as soon as one begins to derive value-judgments from it. When, 
however, the attempt to avoid this conflict is made by assuming the 


political unity of the world economic system — as is theoretically 
allowable — the destruction of those consumable goods in the interest 
of the producer's and consumer's optimum return requires that the 
forcus of the criticism be shifted. The criticism should then be directed 
against the whole principle as such of market provision by means of 
such indicators as arc given by the optimal returns, expressive in 
money, to the economic units participating in exchange. An organiza- 
tion of the provision of goods which is not based on the competitive 
market will have no occasion to take account of the constellation of 
interests as found in the competiti\c market. It will not, therefore, 
be required to withdraw consumable goods from consumption once 
they have been produced. 

Only when the following conditions exist — ( 1 ) persistent inter- 
ests in profit on the part of unchanging persons guided by fixed wants, 
(2) the unqualified prevalence of private capitalist methods of satis- 
fying wants through exchange in an entirely free market, and (3) a 
disinterested state which serves only as a guarantor of the law — is 
Professor Liefmann's proposition correct and then it is, of course, 
self-evident. For the evaluation is then concerned Vv'ith the rational 
means for the optimal solution of a technical problem of distribution. 
The constructs of pure economics which are useful for analytical 
purposes cannot, however, be made the sources of practical value- 
judgments. Economic theory can tell us absolutely nothing more 
than that for the attainment of the given technical end x, y is the 
sole appropriate means or is such together with y^ and y^; that in 
the last analysis these and these differences in consequences and in 
rationality arc associated with y, y^ and y" respectively; and that 
their application and thus the attainment of the end x requires that 
the "subsidiary consequences," z, z^ and z" be taken into account. 
These are all merely reformulations of causal propositions, and to 
the extent that "evaluations" can be imputed to them, they are ex- 
clusively of the type which is concerned with the degree of rationality 
of a prospective action. The evaluations are unambiguous only when 
the economic end and the social context are definitely given and all 
that remains is to choose between several economic means, when 
these differ only with respect to their certainty, rapidity, and quanti- 
tative productiveness, and are completely identical in every other 


value-relevant aspect. It is only when these conditions have been 
met that we evaluate a given means as "technically most correct," 
and it is only then that the evaluation is unambiguous. In every 
other case, i.e., in every case which is not purely a matter of tech- 
nique, the evaluation ceases to be unambiguous and evaluations enter 
which are not determinable exclusively by economic analysis. 

But the unambiguousness of the final "evaluation" is naturally not 
attained by the establishment of the unambiguousness of a technical 
evaluation within the strictly economic sphere. Once we pass from 
the sphere of technical standards, we are face to face with the end- 
less multiplicity of possible evaluations which can be reduced to 
manageability only by reducing them to their ultimate axioms. For — 
to mention only one — behind the particular "action" stands the 
human being. An increase in the subjective rationality and in the 
objective-technical "correctness" of an individual's conduct can, 
beyond a certain limit — or even quite generally from a certain stand- 
point — threaten goods of the greatest (ethical or religious) import- 
ance in his value-system. Scarcely any of us will share the Buddhist 
ethic in its maximum demands which rejects all purposeful conduct 
just because it is purposeful and distracts one from salvation. But to 
"refute" it in the way one refutes an incorrect solution in arithmetic 
or an erroneous medical diagnosis is absolutely impossible. Even 
without drawing on such an extreme example, it is easy to see that 
as far as an evaluation of them is concerned even indisputably "tech- 
nically correct" economic actions are not validated through this 
quality alone. This is true without exception for all rationalized ac- 
tions, including even such apparently technical fields as banking. 
Those who oppose such types of rationalization are by no means 
necessarily fools. Rather, whenever one desires to state a value-judg- 
ment, it is necessary to take into account the subjective and objective 
social influence of technical rationalization. The use of the term 
"progress" is legitimate in our disciplines when it refers to "technical" 
problems, i.e., to the "means" of attaining an unambiguously given 
end. It can never elevate itself into the sphere of "ultimate" evalua- 

After all has been said, I still regard the use of the term "prog- 
ress," even in the limited sphere of its empirically unobjectionable 


application, as very unfortunate. But the use of words is not subject 
to censorship; one can, in the end, avoid the possible misunder- 

Another group of problems concerning the place of the rational 
in the empirical disciplines still remains to be discussed. 

When the normatively valid is the object of empirical investiga- 
tion, its normative validity is disregarded. Its "existence" and not 
its "validity" is what concerns the investigator. When, for example, 
a statistical analysis is made of the number of "arithmetical errors" 
in a certain group of calculations — which can indeed have a scien- 
tific meaning — the basic propositions of the multiplication table are 
valid for the investigator in two quite different senses. In the first 
sense, its normative validity is naturally presupposed in his own cal- 
culations. In the second, however, in which the degree of "correct- 
ness" of the application of the multiplication table enters as the 
object of the investigation, the situation is, logically, quite different. 
Here the application of the multiplication table, by the persons whose 
calculations are the subject-matter of the statistical analysis, is treated 
as a maxim of conduct which they have acquired through education. 
The investigator examines the frequency with which this maxim is 
applied, just as another statistical investigation might examine the 
frequency of certain types of perceptual error. The normative "valid- 
ity," i.e., the "correctness" of the multiplication table is logically 
irrelevant when its application is being investigated. The statistician, 
in studying the calculations of the person investigated, must naturally 
accept the convention of calculating according to the multiplication 
table. But he would indeed also have to apply methods of calcula- 
tion which ai'c "incorrect" when viewed normatively, if such methods 
happened to be regarded as correct in some social group and he had 
to investigate statistically the frequency of its "correct" application 
(i.e., "correct" from the standpoint of the group) . For the purposes 
of empirical, sociological or historical analysis, our multiplication 
table, as the object of such an analysis, is a maxim of practical con- 
duct which is valid according to the conventions of a given culture 
and which is adhered to more or less closely. It is nothing more than 
this. Every exposition of the Pythagorean theory of music must 
accept the calculation which is, to our knowledge, "false," namely. 


that twelve fifths equal sexen oetaves. Ever)' history of logic must 
likewise accept the historical existence of logical statements which, 
for us, are contradictory. Although it is empathically understandable, 
it is outside the realm of science to respond to such "absurdities" with 
explosions of rage as a particularly eminent historian of medieval 
logic once did. 

This transformation of normatively valid truths into convention- 
ally valid opinions, to which all intellectual activities, including even 
logic or mathematics, are subject whenever they become the objects 
of empirical analysis''' is completely independent of the fact that the 
normative validity of logical and mathematical propositions is at the 
same time that a priori basis of all empirical science. Their logical 
structure is less simple in the case of their function in the empirical 
investigation of cultural phenomena. This "function" must be carefully 
differentiated from (a) their function as the object of the investigation 
and (b) their function as the a priori basis of the investigation. Every 
science of psychological and social phenomena is a science of human 
conduct (which includes all thought and attitudes). These sciences 
seek to "understand" this conduct and by means of this understand- 
ing to "explain" it "interpretatively." We cannot deal here with the 
complex phenomenon of "understanding." All that we are interested 
in here is one particular type: namely "rational" interpretation. We 
obviously "understand" without further question a person's solution 
of a certain problem in a manner which we ourselves regard as nor- 
matively correct. The same is true of calculation which is "correct" 
in the sense that means, which are "correct" from our viewpoint, are 
applied to attain a desired goal. Our understanding of these events 
is particularly evident (i.e., plausible) because it is concerned with 
the realization of the objectively "valid." And nevertheless one must 
guard one's self against the belief that in this case what is normatively 
correct has, from the point of view of logic, the same function as it 
has in its general position as the a priori of all scientific investigation. 
Rather its function as a means of "understanding" is exactly the same 
as it is in the case of purely psychological "empathy" with logically 

''^The empirical analysis referred to above docs not attempt to determine their 
normative correctness. 


irrational feeling and affect-complexes, where it is a matter of obtain- 
ing an "understanding" knowledge of them. The means employed 
by the method of "understanding explanation" are not normative cor- 
rectness, but rather, on the one hand, the conventional habits of the 
investigator and teacher in thinking in a particular way, and on 
the other, as the situation requires, his capacity to "feel himself" 
empathically into a mode of thought which deviates from his own 
and which is normatively "false" according to his own habits of 
thought. The fact that "error" is, in principle, just as accessible to 
the understanding as "correct" thinking proves that we are concerned 
here with the normatively "correct" type of validity, not as such but 
only as an especially easily understandable cnjiventional type. This 
leads now to a final statement about the role of "normative correct- 
ness" in social science. 

In order to be able to "understand" an "incorrect" calculation 
or an "incorrect" logical^ assertion and to analyze its consequences, 
one must not only test it in using methods of correct calculation or 
logical thought but must indeed indicate by reference to the "correct" 
calculation or "correct" logic, those points at which the calculation 
or the logical assertion in question deviates from the one which the 
analyst regards as normatively "correct." This is not merely neces- 
sary for pedagogical purposes, which Windelband, for example, 
emphasized in the Introduction to his History of Philosophy ("warn- 
ing signs" against "wrong roads"), and which is in itself only a 
desirable by-product of historical study. Nor is it necessitated by the 
fact that every historical inquiry, among the objects of which are 
included all sorts of logical, mathematical, or other scientific knowl- 
edge, rests only on the foundation of "truth-value" which we accept 
and which is the only possible ultimate value criterion which de- 
termines its selection and progress. Even if this were actually the 
case, it would still be necessary to consider Windelband's often- 
made point: i.e., that progress in the sense of an increase in correct 
propositions, instead of taking the direct path, has — speaking in 
terms of economics — frequently followed the "most productive 
round-about path" in passing through "errors," i.e., problem-con- 
fusions. This procedure is called for because and only to the extent 
of the importance of those aspects in which the knowledge investi- 


gated deviate from those which the investigator himself regards as 
"correct." By importance we mean that the specifically "character- 
istic" aspects in question are from the investigator's point of view 
either directly value-relevant or are causally connected with other 
value-relevant phenomena. This will, ordinarily, be the case, to the 
degree that the truth-value of ideas is the guiding value in the writing 
of intellectual history, e.g., in a history of a particular branch of 
knowledge like philosophy or economic theory. 

But it is by no means necessarily restricted to such cases. A some- 
what similar situation arises whenever one investigates a subjectively 
rational action, in which errors in thinking or calculation can consti- 
tute causal factors of the course of the action, lln order, for example, 
to understand how a war is conducted, it is necessary to imagine an 
ideal commander-in-chief for each side ■ — even though not explicitly 
or in detailed form. Each of these commanders must know the total 
fighting resources of each side and all the possibilities arising there- 
from of attaining the concretely unambiguous goal, namely, the de- 
struction of the enemy's military power. On the basis of this knowl- 
edge, they must act entirely without error and in a logically "perfect" 
way. For only then can the consequences of the fact that the real 
commanders neither had the knowledge nor were they free from 
error, and that they were not purely rational thinking machines, be 
unambiguously established. The rational construction is useful here 
as a means of correct causal imputation. The "ideal" constructions 
of rigorous and errorless rational conduct which we find in pure 
economic theory have exactly the same significance. I 

For purposes of the causal imputation of empirical events, we 
need the rational, empirical-technical and logical constructions, which 
help us to answer the question as to what a behavior pattern or 
thought pattern (e.g., a philosophical system) would be like if it 
possessed completely rational, empirical and logical "correctness" and 
"consistency." From the logical viewpoint, the construction of such 
a rationally "correct" "utopia" or "ideal" is, however, only one of 
the various possible forms of the "ideal-type" — as I have called such 
logical constructs. For not only are there cases in which an incorrect 
inference or a self-defeating action would be more serviceable as ideal- 
types, but there are whole spheres of action (the sphere of the "irra- 


tional") where the simplicity ofTered by isolating abstraction is more 
convenient than an ideal-type of optimal logical rationality. It is 
true that, in practice, the investigator frequently uses normatively ^ 
"correctly" constructed "ideal-types." From the logical point of view, \ 
however, the normative "correctness" of these types is not essential. 
For the purpose of characterizing a specific type of attitude, the 
investigator may construct either an ideal-type which is identical 
with his own personal ethical norms, and in this sense objectively 
"correct," or one which ethically is thoroughly in conflict with his 
own normative attitudes; and he may then compare the behavior of 
the people being investigated with it. Or else he may construct an 
ideal-typical attitude of which he has neither positive nor negative 
evaluations. Normative "correctness" has no monopoly for such pur- 
poses. \Whatever the content of the ideal-type, be it an ethical, a 
legal, an aesthetic, or a religious norm, or a technical, an economic, 
or a cultural maxim or any other type of valuation in the most 
rational form possible, it has only one function in an empirical inves- 
tigation. Its function js_the comparison with empirical reality in 
order to establish its divergences or similarities, to describe them with \ 

the most unambiguously intelligible concepts, and to understand and 
explain them causally. Rational juridicial concepts supply this need 
for the empirical history of law, and the theory of the rational calcu- 
lation of costs and revenue supplies the same service for the analysis 
of the actual behavior of individual economic units in a profit- 
economy. \ Both of these disciplines, in addition to this heuristic func- 
tion, have as "practical arts" distinctly normative-practical aims. In 
this respect, these disciplines are no more empirical in the sense used 
here than are, for instance, mathematics, logic, normative ethics, and 
aesthetics, from which they differ in other respects as much as the 
latter differ among themselves. 

Economic theory is an axiomatic discipline in a way which is 
logically very different from that of the systematic science of law. Its 
relationship to economic reality is very different from the relationship 
of jurisprudence to the phenomena treated by the history and sociol- 
ogy of law. The concepts of jurisprudence may and should be used 
as ideal-types in empirical legal studies. Pure economic theory, in its 
analysis of past and present society, utilizes ideal-tye concepts exclu- 


sively. Economic theory makes certain assumptions which scarcely 
ever correspond completely with reality but which approximate it in 
various degrees and asks: how would men act under these assumed 
conditions, if their actions were entirely rational? It assumes the 
dominance of pure economic interests and precludes the operation 
of political or other non-economic considerations. 

Its fate, however, has been typical of "problem-confusions." Pure 
economics is a theory which is "apolitical," which asserts "no moral 
evaluations," and which is "individualistic" in its orientation in the 
senses specified above. It is and will always be indispensable for 
analytical purposes. The extreme free-traders, however, conceived 
of it as an adequate picture of "natural" reality, i.e., reality not dis- 
torted by human stupidity, and they proceeded to set it up as a moral 
imperative — as a valid normative ideal — whereas it is only a con- 
venient ideal type to be used in empirical analysis. When in con- 
sequence of changes in economic and social policy, the high estimation 
of the state was reflected in the evaluative sphere, pure economic 
theory was rejected not only as an ideal — in which role it could never 
claim validity — but as a methodological device for the investigation 
of empirical facts. "Philosophical" considerations of the most varied 
sort were to supplant rational procedure. The identification of the 
"psychologically" existent with the ethically valid obstructed the pre- 
cise distinction of value-judgments from assertions of fact. 

The extraordinary accomplishments of the representatives of this 
scientific tendency in the fields of history, sociology, and social policy 
are generally acknowledged. But the unbiased observer also perceives 
that theoretical and rigorously scientific analysis in economics has 
been in a state of decay for decades as a natural consequence of that 
confusion of problems. The first of the two main theses which the 
opponents of pure economics set forth is that its rational constructions 
are "pure fictions" which tell us nothing about reality. If rightly 
interpreted, this contention is correct. Theoretical constructions never 
do more than assist in the attainment of a knowledge of reality which 
they alone cannot provide, and which, as a result of the operation of 
other factors and complexes of motives which are not contained in 
their assumptions, even in the most extreme cases, only approximate 


to the hypothesized course of events. This, of course, does not dimin- 
ish the utiHty and necessity of pure theory. The second thesis of the 
opponents of economic theory is that there cannot be a non-evalua- 
tive theory of economic policy as a science. This is fundamentally 
false; non-evaluativeness, in the sense presented above, is on the con- 
trary presupposed by every purely scientific analysis of politics, par- 
ticularly of social and economic policy. It would be superfluous to 
repeat that it is obviously possible and scientifically useful and neces- 
sary to establish propositions of the following type: in order to attain 
the end x (in economic policy), y is the only means, or under 
conditions h\, hi, and h^, yy, y-i, and yi are the only or the most effec- 
tive means. It should be emphatically recalled that the possibility 
of the exact definition of the end sought for is a prerequisite to 
the formulation of the problem. Hence it is simply a question of 
inverting causal propositions; in other words, it is a purely "techni- 
cal" problem. It is indeed on this account that science is not com- 
pelled to formulate these technical teleological propositions in any 
form other than that of simple causal propositions, e.g., x is pro- 
duced by y, or x, under conditions h^, h"~, and hz is produced by 
yi, )^2, and y^. For these say exactly the same thing, and the "man 
of action" can derive his "prescriptions" from them quite easily. In 
addition to the formulation of pure ideal-typical formulae and the 
establishment of such causal economic propositions - — for such are 
without exception involved when x is sufficiently unambiguous — , 
scientific economics has other problems. These problems include 
the causal influence of economic events on the whole range of social 
phenomena (by means of the hypotheses offered by the economic 
interpretation of history) . Likewise included among the problems 
of economics is the analysis of the various ways in which non- 
economic social events influence economic events (economic sociology 
and economic history). Political actions and structures, especially 
the state and the state-guaranteed legal system arc of primary im- 
portance among these non-economic social events. But obviously, 
political events are not the only ones — all those structures which 
influence economic actions to the extent that they become relevant to 
scientific interest must also be included. The phrase "theory of eco- 
nomic policy" is naturally not very suitable for the totality of these 


problems. The fact that it is nevertheless used for this purpose is 
due to the character of the universities as training schools for state 
officials and to the great power of the state to influence the economic 
system in very far-reaching ways. The inversion of "cause and effect" 
propositions into "means-ends" propositions is possible whenever the 
effect in question can be stated precisely. Naturally, this does not at 
all affect the logical relationship between value-judgments and judg- 
ments of fact. In conclusion, we should like to make one more 
comment on this point. 

The developments of the past few decades, and especially the un- 
precedented events to which we are now witness, have heightened the 
prestige of the state tremendously. Of all the various associations, it 
alone is accorded "legitimate" power over life, death, and liberty. Its 
agencies use these powers against external enemies in wartime, and 
against internal resistance in both war and peace. In peacetime, it is 
the greatest entrepreneur in economic life and the most powerful 
collector of tributes from the citizenry; and in time of war, it dis- 
poses of unlimited power over all available economic goods. Its 
modern rationalized form of organization has made achievements 
possible in many spheres which could not have been approximated 
by any other sort of social organization. It is almost inevitable that 
people should conclude that it represents the "ultimate" value — espe- 
cially in the political sphere — and that all social actions should be 
evaluated in terms of their relations to its interests. This is an 
inadmissible deduction of a value-judgment from a statement of fact, 
even if we disregard, for the time being, the ambiguity of the conclu- 
sions drawn from that value-judgment. The ambiguity would of 
course become immediately apparent once we begin to discuss the 
means (of maintaining or "advancing" the state) . In the face of 
the great prestige of the state, it is worthwhile pointing out that there 
are certain things which the state cannot do. This is the case even 
in the sphere of military activity, which might be regarded as its 
most proper domain. The observation of many phenomena which 
the present war has brought about in the armies of nationally hetero- 
geneous states leads us to conclude that the voluntary devotion of 
the individual to the tasks which his state calls for but which it can- 
not compel, is not irrelevant in the determination of military success. 


And in the economic sphere, it should be pointed out that the trans- 
formation of wartime forms and measures into permanent features 
of the peacetime economy can have rapid resuhs which will spoil the 
ideal of an expansive state for those who hold it. Nonetheless, we 
will not concern ourselves further with this point. In the sphere 
of value-judgments, however, it is possible to defend quite meaning- 
fully the view that the power of the state should be increased in order 
to strengthen its power to eliminate obstacles, while maintaining that 
the state itself has no intrinsic value, that it is a purely technical 
instrument for the realization of other values from which alone it 
derives its value, and that it can retain this value only as long as it 
does not seek to transcend this merely auxiliary status. 

We will not expound or defend either this or any other possible 
evaluative standpoint here. We shall only state that if the professional 
thinker has an immediate obligation at all, it is to keep a cool head 
in the face of the ideals prevailing at the time, even those which 
are associated with the throne, and if necessary, "to swim against 
the stream." The "German ideas of 1914" were produced by dilet- 
tantes. The "socialism of the future" is a phrase for the rationaliza- 
tion of economic life by combining further bureaucratization and 
interest-group adminstration. Today fanatical office-holding patriots 
are invoking the spirit not only of German philosophy, but of religion 
as well, to justify these purely technical measures instead of soberly 
discussing their feasibility, which is quite prosaically conditioned by 
financial factors. This kind of activity is nothing but a highly objec- 
tionable form of poor taste manifested by dilettantish litterateurs who 
take themselves over-seriously. But what the real "German ideas of 
1918," on the formation of which the returning soldiers will have 
to be heard, can or should be like, no one today can say in advance. 
This will depend on the future. 

''Objectivity" in Social Science 
and Social Policy 

Wherever assertions are explicitly made in the name of the editor 
or when tasks are set for the Archiv in the course of Section I of the 
foregoing essay, the personal views of the author are not involved. 
Each of the points in question has the express agreement of the co- 
editors. The author alone bears the responsibility for the form and 
content of Section II. 

The fact that the points of view, not only of the contributors but 
of the editors as well, are not identical even on methodological 
issues, stands as a guarantee that the Archiv will not fall prey to 
any sectarian outlook. On the other hand, agreement as to certain 
fundamental issues is a presupposition of the joint assumption of 
editorial responsibility. This agreement refers particularly to the 
value of theoretical knowledge from "one-sided" points of view, the 
construction of precisely defined concepts and the insistence on the 
rigorous distinction between empirical knowledge and value-judg- 
ments as here understood. Naturally we do not claim to present 
anything new therewith. 

The extensiveness of the discussion {Section II) and the fre- 
quent repetition of the same thought are intended only to maximize 
the general understanding of our argument in wider circles. For the 
sake of this intention, much — let us hope not too much — precision 
in expression has been sacrificed. For the same reason, we have 
omitted the presentation of a systematic analysis in favor of the pres- 
ent listing of a few methodological viewpoints. A systematic inquiry 
would have required the treatment of a large number of epistemo- 
logical questions which are far deeper than those raised here. We are 
not interested here in the furtherance of logical analysis per se. We 
are attempting only to apply the well-known results of modern logic 



ti7 _ our own p roblems. Nor are we solving problems here; we are 
trying only to make their significance apparent to non-specialists. 
Those who know the work of the modern logicians — 7 cite only 
Windclband, Simmel, and for our purposes particularly Heinrich 
Rickert — will immediately notice that everything of importance in 
this essay is bound up with their work. 


HEN A SOCIAL SCIENCE journal which also at times 
concerns itself with a social policy, appears for the first time or passes 
into the hands of a new editorial board, it is customaiy to ask about 
its "line." We, too, must seek to answer this question and following 
up the remarks in our "Introductory Note" we will enter into the 
question in a more fundamental theoretical way. Even though or 
perhaps because, we are concerned with "self-evident truths," this 
occasion provides the opportunity to cast some light on the nature 
of the "social sciences" as we understand them, in such a manner 
that it can be useful, if not to the specialist, then to the reader who is 
more remote from actual scientific work. 

In addition to the extension of our knowledge of the "social 
conditions of all countries," i.e., the facts of social life, the express 
purpose of the Archiv ever since its establishment has been the edu- 
cation of judgment about practical social problems — and in the 
very modest way in which such a goal can be furthered by private 
scholars — the criticism of practical social policy, extending even as 
far as legislation. In spite of this, the Archiv has firmly adhered, 
from the very beginning, to its intention to be an exclusively scien- 
tific journal and to proceed only with the methods of scientific re- 
search. Hence arises the question of whether the purpose stated 
above is compatible in principle with self-confinement to the latter 
method. What has been the meaning of the value-judgments found 
in the pages of the Archiv regarding legislative and administrative 
measures, or practical recommendations for such measures? What 
are the standards governing these judgments? \Vhat is the validity 
of the value- judgments which are uttered by the critic, for instance. 


or on which a writer recommending a policy founds his arguments 
for that policy? In what sense, if the criterion of scientific knowledge 
is to be found in the "objective" validity of its results, has he re- ji 
mained within the sphere of scientific discussion? We will first pre- 
sent our own attitude on this question in order later to deal with the 
broader one: in what sense are there in general "objectively valid 
truths" in those., disciplines concerned _with social and cultu ral 
phenomena? This question, in view of the continuous changes and 
bitter conflict about the apparently most elementary problems of our 
discipline, its methods, the formulation and validity of its concepts, 
cannot be avoided. We do not attempt to offer solutions but rather 
to disclose problems — problems of the type to which our journal, 
if it is to meet its past and future responsibilities, must turn its 

We all know that our science, as is the case with every 
science treating the institutions and events of human culture, 
(with the possible exception of political history) first arose in con- 
nection with practical considerations. Its most immediate and often 
sole purpose was the attainment of value-judgments concerning 
measures of State economic policy. It was a "technique" in the 
same sense as, for instance, the clinical disciplines in the medical 
sciences are. It has now become known how this situation was 
gradually modified. This modification was not, however, accompan- 
ied by a formulation of the logical (prinzipielle) distinction between 
"existential knowledge," i.e., knowledge of what "is," and "norma- 
tive knowledge," i.e., knowledge of what "should be." The formu- 
lation of this distinction was hampered, first, by the view that 
immutably invariant natural laws, — later, by the view that an 
unambiguous evolutionary principle — governed economic life and 
that accordingly, what was normatively right was identical — in the 
former case — with the immutal)ly existent — and in the latter — 

^This essay was published when the editorship of the Archiv fur Sozialwisscn- 
schaft und Socialpolitik was transferred to Edgar Jaffe, Werner Sombart and 
Max Weber. Its form was influenced by the occasion for which it was written 
and the content should be considered in this light. (Marianne Weber.) 


with the inevitably emergent. With the awakening of the historical 
sense, a combination of ethical evolutionism and historical relativism 
became the predominant attitude in our science. This attitude 
sought to deprive ethical norms of their formal character and through 
J the incorporation of the totality of cultural values into the "ethical" 
- {Sittlichen) sphere tried to give a substantive content to ethical 
/ norms. It was hoped thereby to raise economics to the status of an 
"ethical science" with empirical foundations. To the extent that 
an "ethical" label was given to all possible cultural ideals, the particu- 
lar autonomy of the ethical imperative was obliterated, without how- 
ever increasing the "objective" validity of those ideals. Nonetheless 
we can and must forego a discussion of the principles at issue. We 
merely point out that even today the confused opinion that economics 
does and should derive value-judgments from a specifically "economic 
point of view" has not disappeared but is especially current, quite 
understandably, among men of practical affairs. 

Our journal as the representative of an empirical specialized dis- 
cipline must, as we wish to show shortly, reject this view in principle. 
It must do so because, in our opinion, it can never be the task of 
an empirical science to provide binding norms and ideals from which 
directives for immediate practical activity can be derived. 

What is the implication of this proposition? It is certainly not 
that value-judgments are to be withdrawn from scientific discussion 
in general simply because in the last analysis they rest on certain 
ideals and are therefore "subjective" in origin. Practical action and 
the aims of our journal would always reject such a proposition. 
Criticism is not to be suspended in the presence of value-judgments. 
The problem is rather: what is the meaning and purpose of the 
scientific criticism of ideals and value-judgments? This requires a 
somewhat more detailed analysis. 

All serious reflection about the ultimate elements of meaningful 
human conduct is oriented primarily in terms of the categories "end" 
Jl I and "means." We desire something concretely either "for its own 
^ I sake" or as a means of achieving something else which is more highly 
desired. The question of the appropriateness of the means for achiev- 
ing a given end is undoubtedly accessible to scientific analysis. In- 
asmuch as we are able to determine (within the present limits of our 


knowledge) which means for the achievement of a proposed end 
are appropriate or inappropriate, we can in this way estimate the 
chances of attaining a certain end by certain available means. In 
this way we can indirectly criticize the setting of the end itself as 
practically meaningful (on the basis of the existing historical situa- 
tion) or as meaningless with reference to existing conditions. Fur- 
thermore, when the possibility of attaining a proposed end appears 
to exist, we can determine (naturally within the limits of our existing 
knowledge) the consequences which the application of the means 
to be used will produce in addition to the eventual attainment of 
the proposed end, as a result of the interdependence of all events. 
We can then provide the acting person with the ability to weigh 
and compare the undesirable as over against the desirable conse- 
quences of his action. Thus, we can answer the question: what will 
the attainment of a desired end "cost" in terms of the predictable 
loss of other values? Since, in the vast majority of cases, every goal 
that is striven for does "cost" or can "cost" something in this sense, 
the weighing of the goal in terms of the incidental consequences of 
the action which realizes it cannot be omitted from the deliberation 
of persons who act with a sense of responsibility. One of the most 
important functions of the technical criticism which we have been 
discussing thus far is to make this sort of analysis possible. To apply 
the results of this analysis in the making of a decision, however, is 
not a task which science can undertake; it is rather the task of the 
acting, willing person: he weighs and chooses from among the values 
involved according to his own conscience and his personal view of 
the world. Science can make him realize that all action and natur- 
ally, according to the circumstances, inaction imply in their conse- 
quences the espousal of certain values — and herewith — what is 
today so willingly overlooked — the rejection of certain others. The 
act of choice itself is his own responsibility. 

We can also offer the person, who makes a choice, insight into 
the significance of the desired object. We can teach him to think 
in terms of the context and the meaning of the ends he desires, 
and among which he chooses. We do this through making explicit 
and developing in a logically consistent manner the "ideas" which 
actually do or which can underlie the concrete end. It is self-evident 



that one of the most important tasks of every science of cultural life 
is to arrive at a rational understanding of these "ideas" for which 
men either really or allegedly struggle. This does not overstep the 
boundaries of a science which strives for an "analytical ordering of 
empirical reality," although the methods which are used in this inter- 
pretation of cultural (geistiger) values are not "inductions" in the 
usual sense. At any rate, this task falls at least partly beyond the 
limits of economics as defined according to the conventional division 
of labor. It belongs among the tasks of social philosophy. How- 
ever, the historical influence of ideas in the development of social 
life has been and still is so great that our journal cannot renounce 
this task. It shall rather regard the investigation of this phenomenon 
as one of its most important obligations. 

But the scientific treatment of value-judgments may not only 
imdcrstand and cmpathically analyze {nncherleben) the desired ends 
and the ideals which underlie them; it can also "judge" them critic- 
ally. This criticism can of course have only a dialetical character, 
i.e., it can be no more than a formal logical judgment of historically 
given value-judgments and ideas, a testing of the ideals according 
to the postulate of the internal consistency of the desired end. It can, 
insofar is it sets itself this goal, aid the acting willing person in attain- 
ing self-clarification concerning the final axioms from which his 
desired ends are derived. It can assist him in becoming aware of the 
ultimate standards of value which he docs not make explicit to him- 
self or, which he must presuppose in order to be logical. The elevation 
of these ultimate standards, which are manifested in concrete value- 
judgments, to the level of oxplicitness is the utmost that the scientific 
treatment of value-judgments can do without entering into the realm 
of speculation. As * /hether the person expressing these value- 
judgments should adh*" to these ultimate standards is his personal 
affair; it involves will and conscience, not empirical knowledge. 

An empirical science cannot tell anyone what he should do — - but 
rather what he can do — and under certain circumstances — what 
he wishes to do. It is true that in our sciences, personal value-judg- 
ments have tended to influence scientific arguments without being 
jexplicitly admitted. They have brought about continual confusion 
and have caused various interpretations to be placed on scientific 


arguments even in the sphere of the determination of simple casual 
interconnections among facts according to whether the results in- 
creased or decreased the chances of realizing orie's personal ideals, 
i.e., the possibility of desiring a certain thing. Even the editors and 
the collaborators of our journal will regard "nothing human as alien" 
to them in this respect. But it is a long way from this acknowledge- 
ment of human frailty to the belief in an "ethical" science of eco- 
nomics, which would derive ideals from its subject matter and produce 
concrete norms by applying general ethical imperatives. It is true 
that we regard as objectively valuable those innermost elements of 
the "personality," those highest and most ultimate value-judgments 
which determine our conduct and give meaning and significance, to ' 
our life. We can indeed espouse these values only when they appear 
to us as valid, as derived from our highest values and when they are 
developed in the struggle against the difficulties which life presents. 
Certainly, the dignity of the "personality" lies in the fact that for it 
there exist values about which it organizes its life ; — even if these 
values are in certain cases concentrated exclusively within the sphere 
of the person's "individuality," then "self-realization" in those inter- 
ests for which it claims validity as values, is the idea with respect to 
\vhich its whole existence is oriented. Only on the assumption of 
belief in the validity of values is the attempt to espouse value-judg- 
ments meaningful. However, to judge the validity of such values is 
a matter of faith. It may perhaps be a task for the speculative inter- 
pretation of life and the universe in quest of their meaning. But it 
certainly does not fall within the province of an empirical science in 
the sense in which it is to be practised here. The empirically demon- 
strable fact that these ultimate ends undergo historical changes and 
are debatable does not affect this distinction between empirical science 
and value-judgments, contrary to what is often thought. For even 
the knowledge of the most certain proposition of our theoretical 
sciences — e.g., the exact natural sciences or mathematics, is, like the 
cultivation and refinement of the conscience, a product of culture. 
However, when we call to mind the practical problems of economic 
and social policy (in the usual sense), we see that there are many, 
indeed countless, practical questions in the discussion of which there 
seems to be general agreement about the self-evident character of 


certain goals. Among these we may mention emergency credit, the 
concrete problems of social hygiene, poor relief, factor)' inspection, 
industrial courts, employment exchanges, large sections of protective 
labor legislation — in short, all those issues in which, at least in ap- 
pearance, only the means for the attainment of the goal are at issue. 
But even if we were to mistake the illusion of self-evidence for truth 
— which science can never do without damaging itself — and wished 
to view the conflicts immediately arising from attempts at practical 
realization as purely technical questions of expediency — which would 
very often be incorrect — even in this case we would have to recog- 
nize that this illusion of the self-evidence of normative standards of 
value is dissipated as soon as we pass from the concrete problems of 
philanthropic and protective social and economic services to prob- 
lems of economic and social policy. The distinctive characteristic 
of a problem of social policy is indeed the fact that it cannot be 
resolved merely on the basis of purely technical considerations which 
assume already settled ends. Normative standards of value can and 
must be the objects of dispute in a discussion of a problem of social 
policy because the problem lies in the domain of general cultural 
values. And the conflict occurs not merely, as we are too easily 
inclined to believe today, between "class interests" but between gen- 
eral views on life and the universe as well. This latter point, how- 
ever, does not lessen the truth that the particular ultimate value- 
judgment which the individual espouses is decided among other fac- 
tors and certainly to a quite significant degree by the degree of affinity 
between it and his class interests — accepting for the time being this 
only superficially unambiguous term. One thing is certain under all 
circumstances, namely, the more "general" the problem involved, i.e., 
in this case, the broader its cultural significance, the less subject it is 
to a single unambiguous answer on the basis of the data of empirical 
sciences and the greater the role played by value-ideas {Wertideen) 
and the ultimate and highest personal axioms of belief. It is simply 
naive to believe, although there are many specialists who even now 
occasionally do, that it is possible to establish and to demonstrate as 
scientifically valid "a principle" for practical social science from 
which the norms for the solution of practical problems can be unam- 
biguously derived. However much the social sciences need the dis- 


cussion of practical problems in terms of fundamental principles, i.e., 
the reduction of unreflective value-judgments to the premises from 
which they are logically derived and however much our journal 
intends to devote itself specially to them — certainly the creation of 
a lowest common denominator for our problems in the form of gen- 
erally valid ultimate value-judgments cannot be its task or in general 
the task of any empirical science. Such a thing would not only be 
impracticable; it would be entirely meaningless as well. Whatever 
the interpretation of the basis and the nature of the validity of the 
ethical imperatives, it is certain that from them, as from the norms 
for the concretely conditioned conduct of the individual, cultural 
values cannot be unambiguously derived as being normatively desir- 
able; it can do so the less, the more inclusive are the values concerned. 
Only positive religions — or more precisely expressed : dogmatically 
bound sects — are able to confer on the content of cultural values the 
status of unconditionally valid ethical imperatives. Outside these 
sects, cultural ideals which the individual wishes to realize and ethical 
obligations which he should fulfil do not, in principle, share the same 
status. The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowl- 
edge is that it must know that we cannot learn the yneaning of the 
world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must 
rather be in a position to create this meaning itself. It must recog- 
nize that general views of life and the universe can never be the 
products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest 
ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the 
struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours 
are to us. 

Only an optimistic syncretism, such as is, at times, the product 
of evolutionary-historical relativism, can theoretically delude itself 
about the profound seriousness of this situation or practically shirk 
its consequences. It can, to be sure, be just as obligatory subjectively 
for the practical politician, in the individual case, to mediate between 
antagonistic points of view as to take sides \vith one of them. But 
this has nothing whatsoever to do with scientific "objectivity." 
Scientifically the "middle course" is not truer even by a hair's breadth, 
than the most extreme party ideals of the right or left. Nowhere are 
the interests of science more poorly served In the long run than in 


those situations where one refuses to see uncomfortable facts and the 
realities of life in all their starkness. The Archiv will struggle re- 
lentlessly against the severe self-deception which asserts that through 
the synthesis of several party points of view, or by following a line 
between them, practical norms of scientific validity can be arrived at. 
It is necessary to do this because, since this piece of self-deception 
tries to mask its own standards of value in relativistic terms, it is 
more dangerous to the freedom of research than the former naive 
faith of parties in the scientific "demonstrability" of their dogmas. 
The capacity to distinguish between empirical knowledge and value- 
judgments, and the fulfillment of the scientific duty to see the factual 
truth as well as the practical duty to stand up for our own ideals 
constitute the program to which we wish to adhere with ever increas- 
ing firmness. 

There is and always will be — and this is the reason that it 
concerns us ■ — an unbridgeable distinction among ( 1 ) those argu- 
ments which appeal to our capacity to become enthusiastic about 
and our feeling for concrete practical aims or cultural forms and 
values, (2) those arguments in which, once it is a question of the 
validity of ethical norms, the appeal is directed to our conscience, 
and finally (3) those arguments which appeal to our capacity and 
need for analytically ordering empirical reality in a manner which 
lays claim to validity as empirical truth. This proposition remains 
correct, despite, as we shall see, the fact that those highest "values" 
underlying the practical interest are and always will be decisively 
significant in determining the focus of attention of analytical activity 
{ordfiende Tdtigkeit des Denkens) in the sphere of the cultural sci- 
ences. It has been and remains true that a systematically correct 
scientific proof in the social sciences, if it is to achieve its purpose, 
must be acknowledged as correct even by a Chinese — or — more 
precisely stated — it must constantly strive to attain this goal, which 
perhaps may not be completely attainable due to faulty data. Fur- 
thermore, the successful logical analysis of the content of an ideal 
and its ultimate axioms and the discovery of the consequences which 
arise from pursuing it, logically and practically, must also be valid 
for the Chinese. At the same time, our Chinese can lack a "sense" 
for our ethical imperative and he can and certainly often will deny 


the ideal itself and the concrete value-judgments derived from it. 
Neither of these two latter attitudes can affect the scientific value of 
the analysis in any way. Quite certainly our journal will not ignore 
the ever and inevitably recurrent attempts to give an unambiguous 
interpretation to culture. On the contrary, these attempts themselves 
rank with the most important products of this cultural life and, 
under certain circumstances, among its dynamic forces. We will 
therefore constantly strive to follow with care the course of these 
discussions of "social philosophy" (as here understood). We are fur- 
thermore completely free of the prejudice which asserts that reflec- 
tions on culture which go beyond the analysis of empirical data in 
order to interpret the world metaphysically can, because of their 
metaphysical character fulfil no useful cognitive tasks. Just what 
these cognitive tasks are is primarily an epistemological question, the 
answer to which we must and can, in view of our purpose, disregard 
at this point. There is one tenet to which we adhere most firmly in 
our work, namely, that a social science journal, in our sense, to the 
extent that it is scientific should be a place where those truths are 
sought, which — to remain with our illustration — can claim, even 
for a Chinese, the validity appropriate to an analysis of empirical 

Of course, the editors cannot once and for all deny to themselves 
or their contributors the possibility of expressing in value-judgments 
the ideals which motivate them. However two important duties 
arise in connection with this. First, to keep the readers and them- 
selves sharply aware at every moment of the standards by which they 
judge reality and from which the value-judgment is derived, instead 
of, as happens too often, deceiving themselves in the conflict of 
ideals by a value melange of values of the most different orders 
and types, and seeking to offer something to everybody. If this obli- 
gation is rigorously heeded, the practical evaluative attitude can be 
not only hannless to scientific interests but even directly useful, and 
indeed mandatory. In the scientific criticism of legislative and other 
practical recommendations, the motives of the legislator and the ideals 
of the critic in all their scope often can not be clarified and analyzed 
in a tangible and intelligible form in any other way than through 
the confrontation of the standards of value underlying the ideas criti- 


cized with others, preferably the critic's own. Every meaningful 
value-judgment about someone else's aspirations must be a criticism 
from the standpoint of one's own Weltanschauung; it must be a strug- 
gle against another's ideals from the standpoint of one's occn. If in a 
particular concrete case, the ultimate value-axioms which underlie 
practical activity are not only to be designated and scientifically 
analyzed but are also to be shown in their relationship to other value- 
axioms, "positive" criticism by means of a systematic exposition of 
the latter is unavoidable. 

In the pages of this journal, especially in the discussion of legisla- 
tion, there will inevitably be found social policy, i.e., the statement 
of ideals, in addition to social science, i.e., the analysis of facts. But 
we do not by any means intend to present such discussions as "science" 
and we will guard as best we can against allowing these two to be 
confused with each other. In such discussions, science no longer has 
the floor. For that reason, the second fundamental imperative of 
scientific freedom is that in such cases it should be constantly made 
clear to the readers (and — again we say it — above all to one's self!) 
exactly at which point the scientific investigator becomes silent and 
the evaluating and acting person begins to speak. In other words, 
it should be made explicit just where the arguments are addressed 
to the analytical understanding and where to the sentiments. The 
constant confusion of the scientific discussion of facts and their evalua- 
tion is still one of the most widespread and also one of the most 
damaging traits of work in our field. The foregoing arguments are 
directed against this confusion, and not against the clear-cut intro- 
duction of one's own ideals into the discussion. An attitude of rnoral 
indifference has no connection with scientific "objectivity." The 
Archiv, at least in its intentions, has never been and should never be 
a place where polemics against certain currents in politics or social 
policy are carried on, nor should it be a place where struggles are 
waged for or against ideals in politics or social-policy. There are 
other journals for these purposes. The peculiar characteristic of the 
journal has rather been from the very beginning and, insofar as it is 
in the power of the editors, shall continue to be that political antag- 
onists can meet in it to carr)' on scientific work. It has not been a 
"socialist" organ hitherto and in the future it shall not be "bourgeois." 


It excludes no one from its circle of contributors who is willing to 
place himself within the framework of scientific discussion. It can- 
not be an arena for "objections," replies and rebuttals, but in its 
pages no one will be protected, neither its contributors nor its edi- 
tors, from being subjected to the sharpest factual, scientific criticism. 
Whoever cannot bear this or who takes the viewpoint that he does 
not wish to work, in the service of scientific knowledge, with persons 
whose other ideals arc different from his own, is free not to partici- 

However, we should not deceive ourselves about it — this last 
sentence means much more in practice than it seems to do at first 
glance. In the first place, there are psychological limits everywhere 
and especially in Germany to the possibility of coming together 
freely with one's political opponents in a neutral forum, be it social 
or intellectual. This obstacle which should be relentlessly combatted 
as a sign of narrow-minded party fanaticism and backward political 
culture, is reenforced for a journal like ours through the fact that 
in social sciences the stimulus to the posing of scientific problems is 
in actuality always given by practical "questions." Hence the very 
recognition of the existence of a scientific problem coincides, person- 
ally, with the possession of specifically oriented motives and values. 
A journal which has come into existence under the influence of a 
general interest in a concrete problem, will always include among its 
contributors persons who are personally interested in these problems 
because certain concrete situations seem to be incompatible with, or 
seem to threaten, the realization of certain ideal values in which they 
believe. A bond of similar ideals will hold this circle of contributors 
together and it will be the basis of a further recruitment. This in 
turn will tend to give the journal, at least in its treatment of ques- 
tions of practical social policy, a certain "character" which of course 
inevitably accompanies every collaboration of vigorously sensitive 
persons whose evaluative standpoint regarding the problems cannot 
be entirely expressed even in purely theoretical analysis; in the criti- 
cism of practical recommendations and measures it quite legitimately 
finds expression — under the particular conditions above discussed. 
The Archil' first appeared at a time in which certain practical aspects 
of the "labor problem" (as traditionally understood) stood in the 


forefront of social science discussions. Ihose persons for whom the 
problems which the Archiv wished to treat were bound up with 
ukimate and decisive value-judgments and who on that account be- 
came its most regular contributors also espoused at the same time 
the view of eulture which was strongly influenced by these value- 
judgments. We all know that though this journal, through its explicit 
self-restriction to "scientific" discussions and through the express invi- 
tation to the "adherents of all political standpoints," denied that it 
would pursue a certain "tendency," it nonetheless possessed a "char- 
acter" in the above sense. This "character" was created by the group 
of its regular contributors. In general they were men who, what- 
ever may have been other divergences in their points of view, set as 
their goal the protection of the physical well-being of the laboring 
masses and the increase of the latters' share of the material and intel- 
lectual values of our culture. As a means, they employed the com- 
bination of state intervention into the arena of material interests 
with the freer shaping of the existing political and legal order. 
Whatever may have been their opinion as to the form of the social 
order in the more remote future — for the present, they accepted the 
emergent trends of the capitalist system, not because they seemed bet- 
ter than the older forms of social organization but because they seemed 
to be practically inevitable and because the attempt to wage a funda- 
mental struggle against it appeared to hinder and not aid the cultural 
rise of the working class. In the situation which exists in Germany 
today — we need not be more specific at this point — this was not 
and is not to be avoided. Indeed, it bore direct fruit in the success- 
ful many-sidedness of the participation in the scientific discussion and 
it constituted a source of strength for the journal; under the given 
circumstances it was perhaps even one of its claims to the justifi- 
cation for its existence. 

There can be no doubt that the development of a "character," 
in this sense, in a scientific journal can constitute a threat to the 
freedom of scientific analysis; it really does amount to that when 
the selection of contributors is purposely one-sided. In this case the 
cultivation of a "character" in a journal is practically ecjuivalent to 
the existence of a "tendency." The editors are aware of the responsi- 
bility which this situation imposes upon them. They propose neither 


the deliberate transformation of the character of the Archiv nor its 
artificial preservation by means of a careful restriction of the con- 
tributors to scholars of certain definite party loyalties. They accept 
it as given and await its further "development." The form which it 
takes in the future and the modifications which it may undergo as a 
result of the inevitable broadening of its circle of contributors wdll 
depend primarily on the character of those persons who, seeking to 
serve the cause of science, enter the circle and become or remain 
frequent contributors. It will be further affected by the broadening 
of the problems, the advancement of which is a goal of the journal. 
With these remarks we come to the question on which we have 
not yet touched, namely, the factual delimitation of our field of 
operations. No answer can, however, be given without raising the 
question as to the goal of social science knowledge in general. When 
we distinguished in principle between "value-judgments" and "em- 
pirical knowledge," we presupposed the existence of an uncondition- 
ally valid type of knowledge in the social sciences, i.e., the analytical 
ordering of empirical social reality. This presupposition now be- 
comes our problem in the sense that we must discuss the meaning 
of objectively "valid" truth in the social sciences. The genuineness 
of the problem is apparent to anyone who is aware of the conflict 
about methods, "fundamental concepts" and presuppositions, the 
incessant shift of "viewpoints," and the continuous redefinition of 
"concepts" and who sees that the theoretical and historical modes of 
analysis are still separated by an apparently unbridgeable gap. It 
consitutes, as a despairing Viennese examinee once sorrowfully com- 
plained, "two sciences of economics." What is the meaning of "objec- 
tivity" in this context? The following discussion will be devoted 
to this question. 


This journal has from the beginning treated social-economic data 
as its subject-matter. Although there is little point in entering here 
into the definition of terms and the delineation of the proper bound- 
aries of the various sciences, we must nonetheless state briefly what 
we mean by this. 

Most roughly expressed, the basic element in all those phenomena 


which we call, in the widest sense, "social-economic" is constituted 
by the fact that our physical existence and the satisfaction of our most 
ideal needs are everywhere confronted with the quantitative limits 
and the qualitative inadequacy of the necessary external means, so 
that their satisfaction requires planful provision and work, struggle 
with nature and the association of human beings. The quality of an 
event as a "social-economic" event is not something which it pos- 
sesses "objectively." It is rather conditioned by the orientation of 
our cognitive interest, as it arises from the specific cultural signifi- 
cance which we attribute to the particular event in a given case. 
Wherever those aspects of a cultural event which constitute its spe- 
cific significance for us are connected with a social-economic event 
either directly or most indirectly, they involve, or at least to the ex- 
tent that this connection exists, can involve a problem for the social 
sciences. By a social science problem, we mean a task for a disci- 
pline the object of which is to throw light on the ramifications of 
that fundamental social-economic phenomenon : the scarcity of means. 
Within the total range of social-economic problems, we are now 
able to distinguish events and constellations of norms, institutions, 
etc., the economic aspect of which constitutes their primary cultural 
significance for us. Such are, for example, the phenomena of the 
stock exchange and the banking world, which, in the main, interest 
us only in this respect. This will be the case regularly (but not ex- 
clusively) when institutions are involved which were deliberately 
created or used for economic ends. Such objects of our knowledge 
we may call "economic" events (or institutions, as the case may be). 
There are other phenomena, for instance, religious ones, which do 
not interest us, or at least do not primarily interest us with respect 
to their economic significance but which, however, under certain cir- 
cumstances do acquire significance in this regard because they have 
consequences which are of interest from the economic point of view. 
These we shall call "economically relevant" phenomena. Finally 
there are phenomena which are not "economic" in our sense and the 
economic effects of which are of no, or at best slight, interest to us 
(e.g., the developments of the artistic taste of a period) but which 
in individual instances are in their turn more or less strongly in- 
fluenced in certain important aspects by economic factors such as, 


for instance, the social stratification of the artistically interested public. 
We shall call these "economically conditioned phenomena." The con- 
stellation of human relationships, norms, and normatively determined 
conduct which we call the "state" is for example in its fiscal aspects, 
an "economic" phenomenon; insofar as it influences economic life 
through legislation or otherwise (and even where other than economic 
considerations deliberately guide its behavior), it is "economically 
relevant." To the extent that its behavior in non-"economic" affairs 
is partly influenced by economic motives, it is "economically condi- 
tioned." After what has been said, it is self-evident that: firstly), the 
boundary lines of "economic" phenomena are vague and not easily 
defined; secondly), the "economic" aspect of a phenomenon is by 
no means only "economically conditioned" or only "economically 
relevant"; thirdly), a phenomenon is "economic" only insofar as and 
only as long as our interest is exclusively focused on its constitutive 
significance in the material struggle for existence. 

Like the science of social-economics since Marx and Roscher, our 
journal is concerned not only with economic phenomena but also 
with those which are "economically relevant" and "economically 
conditioned." The domain of such subjects extends naturally — and 
varyingly in accordance with the focus of our interest at the moment 
— through the totality of cultural life. Specifically economic mo- 
tives — i.e., motives which, in their aspect most significant to us, are 
rooted in the above-mentioned fundamental fact — operate wherever 
the satisfaction of even the most immaterial need or desire is bound 
up with the application of scarce material means. Their force has 
everywhere on that account conditioned and transformed not only 
the mode in which cultural wants or preferences are satisfied, but 
their content as well, even in their most svibjective aspects. The in- 
direct influence of social relations, institutions and groups governed 
by "material interests" extends (often unconsciously) into all spheres 
of culture without exception, even into the finest nuances of aesthetic 
and religious feeling. The events of everyday life no less than the 
"historical" events of the higher reaches of political life, collective 
and mass phenomena as well as the "individuated" conduct of states- 
men and individual literary and artistic achievements arc influenced 
by it. They are "economically conditioned." On the other hand, 


all the activities and situations constituting an historically given cul- 
ture afTect the formation of the material wants, the mode of their 
satisfaction, the integration of interest-groups and the types of power 
which they exercise. They thereby affect the course of "economic 
development" and are accordingly "economically relevant." To the 
extent that our science imputes particular causes — be they economic 
or non-economic — to economic cultural phenomena, it seeks "his- 
torical" knowledge. Insofar as it traces a specific element of cultural 
life (the economic element in its cultural significance) through the 
most diverse cultural contexts, it is making an liistorical interpreta- 
tion from a specific point of view, and offering a partial picture, a 
preliminary contribution to a more complete historical knowledge of 

Social economic problem.s do not exist everywhere that an eco- 
nomic event plays a role as cause or effect — since problems arise 
only where the significance of those factors is problematical and can 
be precisely determined only through the application of the methods 
of social-economics. But despite this, the range of social-economics 
is almost overwhelming. 

After due consideration our journal has generally excluded hither- 
to the treatment of a whole series of highly important special fields 
in our discipline, such as descriptive economics, economic history in 
the narrower sense, and statistics. It has likewise left to other jour- 
nals, the discussion of technical fiscal questions and the technical - 
economic problems of prices and markets in the modern exchange 
economy. Its sphere of operations has been the present significance 
and the historical development of certain conflicts and constellations 
of interests which have arisen through the dominant role of invest- 
ment-seeking capital in modern societies. It has not thereby restricted 
itself to those practical and historical problems which are designated 
by the term "the social question" in its narrower sense, i.e., the place 
of the modern working class in the present social order. Of course, 
the scientific elaboration of the interest in this special question which 
became widespread in Germany in the '80's, has had to be one of its 
main tasks. The more the practical treatment of labor conditions 
became a permanent object of legislation and public discussion in 
Germany, the more the accent of scientific work had to be shifted 


to the analysis of the more universal dimensions of the problem. It 
had thereby to culminate in the analysis of all the cultural problems 
which have arisen from the peculiar nature of the economic bases of 
our culture and which arc, in that sense, specifically modern. The 
journal soon began to deal historically, statistically and theoretically 
with the most diverse, partly "economically relevant," and partly 
"economically conditioned" conditions of the other great social classes 
of modern states and their interrelations. We arc only drawing the 
conclusions of this policy when we state that the scientific investiga- 
tion of the general cultural significance of the social-economic struc- 
ture of the human community and its historical forms of organization 
is the central aim of our journal. This is what we mean when we 
call our journal the Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft. The title is in- 
tended to indicate the historical and theoretical treatment of the 
same problems, the practical solution of which constitutes "social 
policy" in the widest sense of this word. We thereby utilize the right 
to apply the word "social" in the meaning which concrete present- 
day problems give to it. If one wishes to call those disciplines which 
treat the events of human life with respect to their cultural signifi- 
cance "cultural sciences," then social science in our sense belongs in 
that category. We shall soon see what are the logical implications 
of this. 

Undoubtedly the selection of the social-economic aspect of cul- 
tural life signifies a very definite delimitation of our theme. It will 
be said that the economic, or as it has been inaccurately called, the 
"materialistic" point of view, from which culture is here being con- 
sidered, is "one-sided." This is true and the one-sidedness is inten- 
tional. The belief that it is the task of scientific work to cure the 
"one-sidedness" of the economic approach by broadening it into a 
general social science suffers primarily from the weakness that the 
"social" criterion (i.e., the relationships among persons) acquires 
the specificity necessary for the delimitation of scientific problems 
only when it is accompanied by some substantive predicate. Other- 
wise, as the subject matter of a science, it would naturally compre- 
hend philology, for example, as well as church history and particularly 
all those disciplines which concern themselves with the state which 
is the most important form of the normative regulation of cultural 


life. The fact that social-economics concerns itself with "social" rela- 
tions is no more justification for regarding it as the necessary precursor 
of a "general social science" than its concern with vital phenomena 
makes it a part of biology, or its preoccupation with events on one 
of the planets makes it a part of an extended and improved astronomy 
of the future. It is not the "actual" interconnections of "things" 
but the conceptual interconnections of problems which define the 
scope of the various sciences. A new "science" emerges where new 
problems are pursued by new methods and truths are thereby dis- 
covered which open up significant new points of view. 

It is now no accident that the term: "social" which seems to have 
a quite general meaning, turns out to have, as soon as one carefully 
examines its application, a particular specifically colored though often 
indefinite meaning. Its "generality" rests on nothing but its ambi- 
guity. It provides, when taken in its "general" meaning, no specific 
point of view, from which the significance of given elements of cul- 
ture can be analyzed. 

Liberated as we are from the antiquated notion that all cultural 
phenomena can be deduced as a product or function of the constella- 
tion of "material" interests, we believe nevertheless that the analysis 
of social and cultural phenomena with special reference to their eco- 
nomic conditioning and ramifications was a scientific principle of 
creative fruitfulness and with careful application and freedom from 
dogmatic restrictions, will remain such for a very long time to come. 
The so-called "materialistic conception of history" as a Weltanschau- 
ung or as a formula for the casual explanation of historical reality is 
to be rejected most emphatically. The advancement of the economic 
interpretation of history is one of the most important aims of our 
journal. This requires further explanation. 

The so-called "materialistic conception of history" with the crude 
elements of genius of the early form which appeared, for instance, 
in the Communist Manifesto still prevails only in the minds of lay- 
men and dilettantes. In these circles one still finds the peculiar con- 
dition that their need for a casual explanation of an historical event 
is never satisfied until somewhere or somehow economic causes are 
shown (or seem) to be operative. Where this however is the case, 
they content themselves with the most threadbare hypotheses and 


the most general phrases since they have then satisfied their dogmatic 
need to believe that the economic "factor" is the "real" one, the 
only "true" one, and the one which "in the last instance is every- 
where decisive." This phenomenon is by no means unique. Almost 
all the sciences, from philology to biology have occasionally claimed 
to be the sources not only of specialized scientific knowledge but of 
"Weltnnschauungen" as well. Under the impression of the profound 
cultural significance of modern economic transformations and espe- 
cially of the far-reaching ramifications of the "labor question," the 
inevitable monistic tendency of every type of thought which is not 
self-critical naturally follows this path. 

The same tendency is now appearing in anthropology where the 
political and commercial struggles of nations for world dominance 
are being fought with increasing acuteness. There is a widespread 
belief that "in the last analysis" all historical events are results of the 
interplay of innate "racial qualities." In place of uncritical descrip- 
tions of "national characters," there emerges the even more uncritical 
concoction of "social theories" based on the "natural sciences." We 
shall carefully follow the development of anthropological research in 
our journal insofar as it is significant from our point of view. It is 
to be hoped that the situation in which the casual explanation of 
cultural events by the invocation of "racial characteristics" testifies 
to our ignorance — just as the reference to the "milieu" or, earlier, 
to the "conditions of the age" — • will be gradually overcome by re- 
search which is the fruit of systematic training. If there is anything 
that has hindered this type of research, it is the fact that eager dilet- 
tantes have thought that they could contribute something different 
and better to our knowledge of culture than the broadening of the 
possibility of the sure imputation of individual concrete cultural 
events occurring in historical reality to concrete, historically given 
causes through the study of precise empirical data which have been 
selected from specific points of view. Only to the extent that they 
are able to do this, are their results of interest to us and only then 
does "racial biology" become something more than a product of the 
modern passion for founding new sciences. 

The problem of the significance of the economic interpretation 
of history is the same. If, following a period of boundless over- 


estimation, the danger now exists that its scientific value will be 
underestimated, this is the result of the unexampled naivete with 
which the economic interpretation of reality was applied as a "uni- 
versal" canon which explained all cultural phenomena — i.e., all 
those which arc meaningful to us — as, in the last analysis, economic- 
ally conditioned. Its present logical form is not entirely unambiguous. 
Wherever the strictly economic explanation encounters difficulties, 
various devices are available for maintaining its general validity as the 
decisive casual factor. Sometimes every historical event which is not 
explicable by the invocation of economic motives is regarded for that 
very reason as a scientifically insignificant "accident." At others, the 
definition of "economic" is stretched beyond recognition so that all 
human interests which are related in any way whatsoever to the use 
of material means are included in the definition. If it is historically 
undeniable that difTerent responses occur in two situations which are 
economically identical — due to political, religious, climatic and 
countless other non-economic determinants — then in order to main- 
tain the primacy of the economic all these factors are reduced to 
historically accidental "conditions" upon which the economic factor 
operates as a "cause." It is obvious however that all those factors 
which are "accidental" according to the economic interpretation of 
history follow their own laws in the same sense as the economic 
factor. From a point of view which traces the specific meaning of 
these non-economic factors, the existing economic "conditions" are 
"historically accidental" in quite the same sense. A favorite attempt 
to preserve the supreme significance of the economic factor despite 
this consists in the interpretation of the constant interaction of the 
individual elements of cultural life as a casual or functional depend- 
ence of one on the other, or rather of all the others on one, namely, 
the economic clement. When a certain 7ion-economic institution has 
functioned for the benefit of certain economic class interests, as, for 
example, where certain religious institutions allowed themselves to 
be and actually were used as "black police," the whole institution is 
conceived either as having been created for this function or — quite 
metaphysically — as being impelled by a "developmental tendency" 
emanating from the economic factor. 

It is unnecessary nowadays to go into detail to prove to the spe- 


cialist that this interpretation of the purpose of the economic analysis 
of culture is in part the expression of a certain historical constella- 
tion which turned its scientific interest towards certain economically 
conditioned cultural problems, and in part the rabid chauvinism of 
a specialized department of science. It is clear that today it is anti- 
quated at best. The explanation of everything by economic causes 
alone is never exhaustive in any sense whatsoever in any sphere of 
cultural phenomena, not even in the "economic" sphere itself. In 
principle, a banking history of a nation which adduces only economic 
motives for explanatory purposes is naturally just as unacceptable 
as an explanation of the Sistine Madonna as a consequence of the 
social-economic basis of the culture of the epoch in which it was 
created. It is no way more complete than, for instance, the explana- 
tion of capitalism by reference to certain shifts in the content of the 
religious ideas which played a role in the genesis of the capitalistic 
attitude; nor is it more exhaustive than the explanation of a political 
structure from its geographical background. In all of these cases, 
the degree of significance which we are to attribute to economic fac- 
tors is decided by the class of causes to which we are to impute 
those specific elements of the phenomenon in question to which we 
attach significance in given cases and in which we are interested. 
The justification of the one-sided analysis of cultural reality from 
specific "points of view" — in our case with respect to its economic 
conditioning — emerges purely as a technical expedient from the 
fact that training in the observation of the effects of qualitatively 
similar categories of causes and the repeated utilization of the same 
scheme of concepts and hypotheses {begrifflich-methodischen Appa- 
rates) offers all the advantages of the division of labor. It is free 
from the charge of arbitrariness to the extent that it is successful in 
producing insights into interconnections which have been shown to 
be valuable for the casual explanation of concrete historical events. 
However — the "one-sidedness" and the unreality of the purely eco- 
nomic interpretation of history is in general only a special case of a 
principle which is generally valid for the scientific knowledge of cul- 
tural reality. The main task of the discussiori to follow is to make 
explicit the logical foundations and the general methodological im- 
plications of this principle. 





There is no absolutely "objective" scientific analysis of culture — 
or put perhaps more narrowly but certainly not essentially differently 
for our purposes — of "social phenomena" independent of special and 
"one-sided" viewpoints according to which • — expressly or tacitly, con- 
sciously or unconsciously — they are selected, analyzed and organized 
for expository purposes. The reasons for this lie in the character 
of the cognitive goal of all research in social science which seeks to 
transcend the purely formal treatment of the legal or conventional 
norms regulating social life. 

The type of social science in which we are interested is an empirical 
science of concrete reality {Wirklichkeitswissenschaft) . Our aim is the 
understanding of the characteristic uniqueness of the reality in which 
we move. We wish to understand on the one hand the relationships 
and the cultural significance of individual events in their contem- 
porary manifestations and on the other the causes of their being 
historically so and not otherwise. Now, as soon as we attempt to 
reflect about the way in which life confronts us in immediate con- 
crete situations, it presents an infinite multiplicity of successively and 
coexistently emerging and disappearing events, both "within" and 
"outside" ourselves. The absolute infinitude of this multiplicity is 
seen to remain undiminished even when our attention is focused on 
a single "object," for instance, a concrete act of exchange, as soon as 
we seriously attempt an exhaustive description of all the individual 
components of this "individual phenomena," to say nothing of ex- 
plaining it casually. All the analysis of infinite reality which the 
finite human mind can conduct rests on the tacit assumption that 
only a finite portion of this reality constitutes the object of scientific 
investigation, and that only it is "important" in the sense of being 
"worthy of being known." But what arc the criteria by which this 
segment is selected? It has often been thought that the decisive 
criterion in the cultural sciences, too, was in the last analysis, the 
"regular" recurrence of certain casual relationships. The "laws" 
which we are able to perceive in the infinitely manifold stream of 
events must — according to this conception — contain the scientific- 
ally "essential" aspect of reality. As soon as we have shown some 
causal reltaionship to be a "law," i.e., if we have shown it to be uni- 
versally valid by means of comprehensive historical induction or have 


made it immediately and tangibly plausible according to our subjec- 
tive experience, a great number of similar cases order themselves 
under the formula thus attained. Those elements in each individual 
event which are left unaccounted for by the selection of their elements 
subsumablc under the "law" are considered as scientifically uninte- 
grated residues which will be taken care of in the further perfection 
of the system of "laws." Alternatively they will be viewed as "acci- 
dental" and therefore scientifically unimportant because they do not 
fit into the structure of the "law" ; in other words, they are not typical 
of the event and hence can only be the objects of "idle curiosity." 
Accordingly, even among the followers of the Historical School we 
continually find the attitude which declares that the ideal which all 
the sciences, including the cultural sciences, serve and towards which 
they should strive even in the remote future is a system of proposi- 
tions from which reality can be "deduced." As is well known, a lead- 
ing natural scientist believed that he could designate the (factually 
unattainable) ideal goal of such a treatment of cultural reality as a 
sort of "astronomical" knowledge. 

Let us not, for our part, spare ourselves the trouble of examining 
these matters more closely — however often they have already been 
discussed. The first thing that impresses one is that the "astronom- 
ical" knowledge which was referred to is not a system of laws at all. 
On the contrary, the laws which it presupposes have been taken from 
other disciplines like mechanics. But it too concerns itself with the 
question of the individual consequence which the working of these 
laws in an unique configuration produces, since it is these individual 
configurations which are significant for us. Every individual constel- 
lation which it "explains" or predicts is causally explicable only as 
the consequence of another equally individual constellation which has 
preceded it. As far back as we may go into the grey mist of the far- 
off past, the reality to which the laws apply always remains equally 
individual, equally undeducible from laws. A cosmic "primeval 
state" which had no individual character or less individual character 
than the cosmic reality of the present would naturally be a meaning- 
less notion. But is there not some trace of similar ideas in our field 
in those propositions sometimes derived from natural law and some- 
times verified by the observation of "primitives," concerning an 


economic-social "primeval state" free from historical "accidents," and 
characterized by phenomena such as "primitive agrarian commun- 
ism," sexual "promiscuity," etc., from which individual historical de- 
velopment emerges by a sort of fall from grace into concreteness? 

The social-scientific interest has its point of departure, of course, 
in the real, i.e., concrete, individually-structured configuration of our 
cultural life in its universal relationships which are themselves no 
less individually-structured, and in its development out of other social 
cultural conditions, which themselves are obviously likewise individ- 
ually structured. It is clear here that the situation which we illus- 
trated by reference to astronomy as a limiting case (which is regularly 
drawn on by logicians for the same purpose) appears in a more 
accentuated form. Whereas in astronomy, the heavenly bodies are 
of interest to us only in their quantitative and exact aspects, the 
qualitative aspect of phenomena concerns us in the social sciences. 
To this should be added that in the social sciences we are concerned 
with psychological and intellectual {geistig) phenomena the empathic 
understanding of which is naturally a problem of a specifically dif- 
ferent type from those which the schemes of the exact natural sciences 
in general can or seek to solve. Despite that, this distinction in 
itself is not a distinction in principle, as it seems at first glance. 
Aside from pure mechanics, even the exact natural sciences do not 
proceed without qualitative categories. Furthermore, in our own 
field we encounter the idea (which is obviously distorted) that at 
least the phenomena characteristic of a money-economy ■ — which are 
basic to our culture — are quantifiable and on that account subject 
to formulation as "laws." Finally it depends on the breadth or nar- 
rowness of one's definition of "law" as to whether one will also 
include regularities which because they are not quantifiable are not 
subject to numerical analysis. Especially insofar as the influence of 
psychological and intellectual (gestige) factors is concerned, it does 
not in any case exclude the establishment of rules governing rational 
conduct. Above all, the point of view still persists which claims that 
the task of psychology is to play a role comparable to mathematics 
for the Geisteswissenschaften in the sense that it analyzes the com- 
plicated phenomena of social life into their psychic conditions and 
effects, reduces them to their most elementary possible psychic factors 


and then analyzes their functional interdependences. Thereby, a sort 
of "chemistry" if not "mechanics" of the psychic foundations of social 
life would be created. Whether such investigations can produce 
valuable and — what is something else — useful results for the cul- 
tural sciences, we cannot decide here. But this would be irrelevant 
to the question as to whether the aim of social-economic knowledge 
in our sense, i.e., knowledge of reality with respect to its cultural 
significance and its casual relationships can be attained through the 
quest for recurrent sequences. Let us assume that we have succeeded 
by means of psychology or otherwise in analyzing all the observed 
and imaginable relationships of social phenomena into some ultimate 
elementary "factors," that we have made an exhaustive analysis and 
classification of them and then formulated rigorously exact laws cov- 
ering their behavior. — What would be the significance of these re- 
sults for our knowledge of the historically given culture or any indi- 
vidual phase thereof, such as capitalism, in its development and 
cultural significance? As an analytical tool, it would be as useful 
as a textbook of organic chemical combinations would be for our 
knowledge of the biogenetic aspect of the animal and plant world. 
In each case, certainly an important and useful preliminary step 
would have been taken. In neither case can concrete reality be de- 
duced from "laws" and "factors." This is not because some higher 
mysterious powers reside in living phenomena (such as "dominants," 
"entelechies," or whatever they might be called). This, however, 
a problem in its own right. The real reason is that the analysis 
of reality is concerned with the configuration into which those (hypo- 
thetical!) "factors" are arranged to form a cultural phenomenon 
w-hich is historically significant to us. Furthermore, if we wish 
to "explain" this individual configuration "causally" we must in- 
voke other equally individual configurations on the basis of which 
we will explain it with the aid of those (hypothetical!) "laws." 

The determination of those (hypothetical) "laws" and "factors" 
would in any case only be the first of the many operations which 
would lead us to the desired type of knowledge. The analysis of the 
historically given individual configuration of those "factors" and their 
significant concrete interaction, conditioned by their historical con- 
text and especially the rendering intelligible of the basis and type of 


this significance would be the next task to be achieved. This task 
must be achieved, it is true, by the utilization of the preliminary 
analysis but it is nonetheless an entirely new and distinct task. The 
tracing as far into the past as possible of the individual features of 
these historically evolved configurations which are contemporaneously 
significant, and their historical explanation by antecedent and equally 
individual configurations would be the third task. Finally the pre- 
diction of possible future constellations would be a conceivable fourth 

For all these purposes, clear concepts and the knowledge of 
those (hypothetical) "laws" are obviously of great value as heuristic 
means — but only as such. Indeed they are quite indispensable for 
this purpose. But even in this function their limitations become evi- 
dent at a decisive point. In stating this, we arrive at the decisive 
feature of the method of the cultural sciences. We have designated 
as "cultural sciences" those disciplines which analyze the phenomena 
of life in terms of their cultural significance. The significance of a 
configuration of cultural phenomena and the basis of this significance 
cannot ho\vever be derived and rendered intelligible by a system of 
analytical laws (Gesetzesbegriffen), however perfect it may be, since 
the significance of cultural events presupposes a value-orientation 
towards these events. The concept of culture is a value-concept. 
Empirical reality becomes "culture" to us because and insofar as we 
relate it to value ideas. It includes those segments and only those 
segments of reality which have become significant to us because of 
this value-relevance. Only a small portion of existing concrete 
reality is colored by our value-conditioned interest and it alone is 
significant to us. It is significant because it reveals relationships 
which are important to us due to their connection with our values. 
Only because and to the extent that this is the case is it worthwhile 
for us to know it in its individual features. We cannot discover, 
however, what is meaningful to us by means of a "presuppositionless" 
investigation of empirical data. Rather perception of its meaning- 
fulness to us is the presupposition of its becoming an object of inves- 
tigation. Meaningfulncss naturally does not coincide with laws as 
such, and the more general the law the less the coincidence. For the 
specific meaning which a phenomenon has for us is naturally not to 


be found in those relationships which it shares with many other 

The focus of attention on reaHty under the guidance of values 
which lend it significance and the selection and ordering of the phe- 
nomena which are thus affected in the light of their cultural signifi- 
cance is entirely different from the analysis of reality in terms of 
laws and general concepts. Neither of these two types of the analysis 
of reality has any necessary logical relationship with the other. They 
can coincide in individual instances but it would be most disastrous 
if their occasional coincidence caused us to think that they were not 
distinct in principle. The cultural significance of a phenomenon, 
e.g., the significance of exchange in a money economy, can be the 
fact that it exists on a mass scale as a fundamental component of 
modem culture. But the historical fact that it plays this role must 
be causally explained in order to render its cultural significance 
understandable. The analysis of the general aspects of exchange and 
the technicjue of the market is a — highly important and indispens- 
able — preliminary task. For not only does this type of analysis leave 
unanswered the question as to how exchange historically acquired its 
fundamental significance in the modern world; but above all else, 
the fact with which we are primarily concerned, namely, the cultural 
significance of the money-economy, for the sake of which we are 
interested in the description of exchange technique and for the sake 
of which alone a science exists which deals with that technique — is 
not derivable from any "law." The generic features of exchange, 
purchase, etc., interest the jurist — but we are concerned with the 
analysis of the cultural significance of the concrete historical fact that 
today exchange exists on a mass scale. When we require an explana- 
tion, when we wish to understand what distinguishes the social- 
economic aspects of our culture for instance from that of antiquity in 
which exchange showed precisely the same generic traits as it does 
today and when we raise the question as to where the significance 
of "money economy" lies, logical principles of quite heterogeneous 
derivation enter into the investigation. We will apply those concepts 
with which we are provided by the investigation of the general fea- 
tures of economic mass phenomena — indeed, insofar as they are 
relevant to the meaningful aspects of our culture, we shall use them 


as means of exposition. The goal of our investigation is not reached 
through the exposition of those laws and concepts, precise as it may 
be. The question as to what should be the object of universal con- 
ceptualization cannot be decided "presuppositionlessly" but only with 
reference to the significance which certain segments of that infinite 
multiplicity which we call "commerce" have for culture. We seek 
knowledge of an historical phenomenon, meaning by historical: sig- 
nificant in its individuality (Eigenart) . And the decisive element in 
this is that only through the presupposition that a finite part alone 
of the infinite variety of phenomena is significant, does the knowledge 
of an individual phenomenon become logically meaningful. Even 
with the widest imaginable knowledge of "laws," we are helpless in 
the face of the question: how is the causal explanation of an individ- 
ual fact possible — since a description of even the smallest slice of 
reality can never be exhaustive? The number and type of causes 
which have influenced any given event are always infinite and there is 
nothing in the things themselves to set some of them apart as alone 
meriting attention. A chaos of "existential judgments" about count- 
less individual events would be the only result of a serious attempt to 
analyze reality "without presuppositions." And even this result is 
only seemingly possible, since every single perception discloses on 
closer examination an infinite number of constituent perceptions 
which can never be exhaustively expressed in a judgement. Order 
is brought into this chaos only on the condition that in every case 
only a part of concrete reality is interesting and significant to us, be- 
cause only it is related to the cultural values with which we approach 
reality. Only certain sides of the infinitely complex concrete phenom- 
enon, namely those to which we attribute a general cultural signifi- 
cance — are therefore worthwhile knowing. They alone are objects 
of causal explanation. And even this causal explanation evinces the 
same character; an exhaustive causal investigation of any concrete 
phenomena in its full reality is not only practically impossible — it is 
simply nonsense. We select only those causes to which are to be 
imputed in the invidiual case, the "essential" feature of an event. 
Where the individuality of a phenomenon is concerned, the question 
of causality is not a question of laws but of concrete causal relation- 
ships; it is not a question of the subsumption of the event under some 


general rubric as a representative case but of its imputation as a 
consequence of some constellation. It is in brief a question of im- 
putation. Wherever the causal explanation of a "cultural phenom- 
enon — an "historical individual" *^^ is under consideration, the 
knowledge of causal laws is not the end of the investigation but only 
a means. It facilitates and renders possible the causal imputation 
to their concrete causes of those components of a phenomenon the 
individuality of which is culturally significant. So far and only so 
far as it achieves this, is it valuable for our knowledge of concrete 
relationships. And the more "general," i.e., the more abstract the 
laws, the less they can contribute to the causal imputation of individ- 
ual phenomena and, more indirectly, to the understanding of the 
significance of cultural events . 

What is the consequence of all this? 

Naturally, it does not imply that the knowledge of universal 
propositions, the construction of abstract concepts, the knowledge of 
regularities and the attempt to formulate "laws" have no scientific 
justification in the cultural sciences. Quite the contrary, if the causal 
knowledge of the historians consists of the imputation of concrete 
efTects to concrete causes, a valid imputation of any individual effect 
without the application of "nomological" knowledge — i.e., the knowl- 
edge of recurrent causal sequences — would in general be impossible. 
Whether a single individual component of a relationship is, in a con- 
crete case, to be assigned causal responsibility for an effect, the causal 
explanation of which is at issue, can in doubtful cases be determined 
only by estimating the effects which we generally expect from it and 
from the other components of the same complex which are relevant 
to the explanation. In other words, the "adequate" efifects of the 
causal elements involved must be considered in arriving at any such 
conclusion. The extent to which the historian (in the widest sense 
of the word) can perform this imputation in a reasonably certain 
manner with his imagination sharpened by personal experience and 
trained in analytic methods and the extent to which he must have 
recourse to the aid of special disciplines which make it possible, varies 

<2)Wc will use the term which is already occasionally used in the methodology 
of our discipline and which is now becoming widespread in a more precise 
forumlation in logic. 


with the individual case. Everywhere, however, and hence also in 
the sphere of complicated economic processes, the more certain and 
the more comprehensive our general knowledge the greater is the 
certainty of imputation. This proposition is not in the least affected 
by the fact that even in the case of all so-called "economic laws" 
without exception, we are concerned here not with "laws" in the 
narrower e.xact natural science sense, but with adequate causal rela- 
tionships expressed in rules and with the application of the category 
of "objective possibility." The establishment of such regularities is 
not the end but rather the means of knowledge. It is entirely a ques- 
tion of expediency, to be settled separately for each individual case, 
whether a regularly recurrent causal relationship of everyday exper- 
ience should be formulated into a "law." Laws are important and 
valuable in the exact natural sciences, in the measure that those 
sciences are universally valid. For the knowledge of historical phe- 
nomena in their concreteness, the most general laws, because they 
are most devoid of content are also the least valuable. The more 
comprehensive the validity, — or scope — of a term, the more it leads 
us away from the richness of reality since in order to include the 
common elements of the largest possible number of phenomena, it 
must necessarily be as abstract as possible and hence devoid of con- 
tent. In the cultural sciences, the knowledge of the universal or 
general is never valuable in itself. 

The conclusion which follows from the above is that an "objec- 
tive" analysis of cultural events, which proceeds according to the 
thesis that the ideal of science is the reduction of empirical reality 
of "laws," is meaningless. It is not meaningless, as is often main- 
tained, because cultural or psychic events for instance are "objec- 
tively" less governed by laws. It is meaningless for a number of 
other reasons. Firstly, because the knowledge of social laws is not 
knowledge of social reality but is rather one of the various aids used 
by our minds for attaining this end; secondly, because knowledge of 
cultural events is inconceivable except on a basis of the significance 
which the concrete constellations of reality have for us in certain 
individual concrete situations. In which sense and in which situations 
this is the case is not revealed to us by any law; it is decided accord- 
ing to the value-ideas in the light of which we view "culture" in each 


individual case. "Culture" is a finite segment of the meaningless in- 
finity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer 
meaning and significance. This is true even for the human being 
who views a particular culture as a mortal enemy and who seeks to 
"return to nature." He can attain this point of view only after view- 
ing the culture in which he lives from the standpoint of his values, 
and finding it "too soft." This is the purely logical-formal fact which 
is involved when we speak of the logically necessary rootedness 
of all historical entities (historische Individuen) in "evaluative ideas." 
The transcendental presupposition of every cultural science Yi^^nol 
in our finding a certain culture or any "culture" in general to 
be valuable but rather in the iact that, we are CM/fura(^& en- 

dowed with the capacity and the will to take a deliberate attitude 
towards the world and to lend it sigyiificance. Whatever this signifi- 
cance may be, it will lead us to judge certain phenomena jof human 
existence in its light and to respond to them as being (positively 
or negatively) meaningful. Whatever may be the content of 
this attitude — these phenomena have cultural significance for us 
and on this significance alone rests its scientific interest. Thus when 
we speak here of the conditioning of cultural knowledge through 
evaluative ideas [Wertideen) (following the terminology of modern 
logic), it is done in the hope that we will not be subject to crude 
misunderstandings such as the opinion that cultural significance 
should be attributed only to valuable phenomena. Prostitution is a 
cultural phenomenon just as much as religion or money. All three 
are cultural phenomena only because and only insofar as their exist- 
ence and the form which they historically assume touch directly or 
indirectly on our cultural interests and arouse our striving for knowl- 
edge concerning problems brought into focus by the evaluative ideas 
which give significance to the fragment of reality analyzed by those 

All knowledge of cultural reality, as may be seen, is always knowl- 
edge from particular points of view. When we require from the his- 
torian and social research worker as an elementary presupposition 
that they distinguish the important from the trivial and that he 
should have the necessary "point of view" for this distinction, we 
mean that they must understand how to relate the events of the real 


world consciously or unconsciously to universal "cultural values" and 
to select out those relationships which are significant for us. If the 
notion that those standpoints can be derived from the "facts them- 
selves" continually recurs, it is due to the naive self-deception of the 
specialist who is unaware that it is due to the evaluative ideas with 
which he unconsciously approaches his subject matter, that he has 
selected from an absolute infinity a tiny portion with the study of 
which he concerns himself. In connection with this selection of indi- 
vidual special "aspects" of the event which always and everywhere 
occurs, consciously or unconsciously, there also occurs that element 
of cultural-scientific work \vhich is referred to by the often-heard 
assertion that the "personal" element of a scientific work is what is 
really valuable in it, and that personality must be expressed in every 
work if it existence is to be justified. To be sure, without the investi- 
gator's evaluative ideas, there would be no principle of selection of 
subject-matter and no meaningful knowledge of the concrete reality. 
Just as without the investigator's conviction regarding the significance 
of particular cultural facts, every attempt to analyze concrete reality 
is absolutely meaningless, so the direction of his personal belief, the 
refraction of values in the prism of his mind, gives direction to his 
work. And the values to which the scientific genius relates the object 
of his inquiry may determine, i.e., decide the "conception" of a whole 
epoch, not only concerning what is regarded as "valuable" but also 
concerning what is significant or insignificant, "important" or "un- 
important" in the phenomena. 

Accordingly, cultural science in our sense involves "subjective" 
presuppositions insofar as it concerns itself only with those compon- 
ents of reality which have some relationship, however indirect, to 
events to which we attach cultural significance. Nonetheless, it is 
entirely causal knowledge exactly in the same sense as the knowledge 
of significant concrete {individueller) natural events which have a 
qualitative character. Among the many confusions which the over- 
reaching tendency of a formal-juristic outlook has brought about in 
the cultural sciences, there has recently appeared the attempt to 
"refute" the "materialistic conception of history" by a scries of clever 
but fallacious arguments which state that since all economic life must 
take place in legally or conventionally regulated forms, all economic 


"development" must take the form of striving for the creation of new 
legal forms. Hence, it is said to be intelligible only through ethical 
maxims and is on this account essentially different from every type 
of "natural" development. Accordingly the knowledge of economic 
development is said to be "teleological" in character. Without wish- 
ing to discuss the meaning of the ambiguous term "development," or 
the logically no less ambiguous term "teleology" in the social sciences, 
it should be stated that such knowledge need not be "teleological" in 
the sense assumed by this point of view. The cultural significance 
of normatively regulated legal relations and even norms themselves 
can undergo fundamental revolutionary changes even under condi- 
tions of the formal identity of the prevailing legal norms. Indeed, 
if one wishes to lose one's self for a moment in phantasies about the 
future, one might theoretically imagine, let us say, the "socialization 
of the means of production" unaccompanied by any conscious "striv- 
ing" towards this result, and without even the disappearance or addi- 
tion of a single paragraph of our legal code; the statistical frequency 
of certain legally regulated relationships might be changed funda- 
mentally, and in many cases, even disappear entirely; a great number 
of legal norms might become practically meaningless and their whole 
cultural significance changed beyond identification. De lege ferenda 
discussions may be justifiably disregarded by the "materialistic con- 
ception of history" since its central proposition is the indeed inevitable 
change in the significayice of legal institutions. Those who view the 
painstaking labor of causally understanding historical reality as of 
secondary importance can disregard it, but it is impossible to sup- 
plant it by any type of "teleology." From our viewpoint, "purpose" 
is the conception of an effect which becomes a cause of an action. 
Since we take into account eveiy cause which produces or can pro- 
duce a significant effect, we also consider this one. Its specific signifi- 
cance consists only in the fact that we not only observe human conduct 
but can and desire to understand it. 

Undoubtedly, all evaluative ideas are "subjective." Between the 
"historical" interest in a family chronicle and that in the develop- 
ment of the greatest conceivable cultural phenomena which were 
and are common to a nation or to mankind over long epochs, there 
exists an infinite gradation of "significance" arranged into an order 


which differs for each of us. And they are, naturally, historically 
variable in accordance with the character of the culture and the 
ideas which rule men's minds. But it obviously docs not follow from 
this that research in the cultural sciences can only have results which 
are "subjective" in the sense that they are valid for one person and 
not for others. Only the degree to which they interest different per- 
sons varies. In other words, the choice of the object of investigation 
and the extent or depth to which this investigation attempts to pene- 
trate into the infinite causal web, are determined by the evaluative 
ideas which dominate the investigator and his age. In the method 
of investigation, the guiding "point of view" is of great importance 
for the construction of the conceptual scheme which \vill be used in 
the investigation. In the mode of their use, however, the investigator 
is obviously bound by the norms of our thought just as much here 
as elsewhere. For scientific truth is precisely what is valid for all who 
seek the truth. 

However, there emerges from this the meaninglessness of the 
idea which prevails occasionally even among historians, namely, 
that the goal of the cultural sciences, however far it may be from 
realization, is to construct a closed system of concepts, in which 
reality is synthesized in some sort of permanently and universally 
valid classification and from which it can again be deduced. The 
stream of immeasurable events flows unendingly towards eternity. 
The cultural problems which move men form themselves ever anew 
and in different colors, and the boundaries of that area in the infinite 
stream of concrete events which acquires meaning and significance 
for us, i.e., which becomes an "historical individual," arc constantly 
subject to change. The intellectual contexts from which it is viewed 
and scientifically analyzed shift. The points of departure of the cul- 
tural sciences remain changeable throughout the limitless future as 
long as a Chinese ossification of intellectual life docs not render man- 
kind incapable of setting new questions to the eternally inexhaustible 
flow of life. A systematic science of culture, even only in the sense 
of a definitive, objectively valid, systematic fixation of the problems 
which it should treat, would be senseless in itself. Such an attempt 
could only produce a collection of numerous, specifically particular- 
ized, heterogeneous and disparate viewpoints in the light of which 


reality becomes "culture" through being significant in its unique 

Having now completed this lengthy discussion, we can finally 
turn to the question which is methodologically relevant in the con- 
sideration of the "objectivity" of cultural knowledge. The question 
is: what is the logical function and structure of the concepts which 
our science, like all others, uses? Restated with special reference to 
the decisive problem, the question is: what is the significance of 
theory and theoretical conceptualization {theoretische Be griff shildung) 
for our knowledge of cultural reality? 

Economics was originally — as we have already seen — a "tech- 
nique," at least in the central focus of its attention. By this we 
mean that it viewed reality from an at least ostensibly unambiguous 
and stable practical evaluative standpoint: namely, the increase of 
the "wealth" of the population. It was on the other hand, from the 
very beginning, more than a "technique" since it was integrated into 
the great scheme of the natural law and rationalistic W eltanschauung 
of the eighteenth century. The nature of that Weltanschauung with 
its optimistic faith in the theoretical and practical rationalizability 
of reality had an important consequence insofar as it obstructed the 
discovery of the problematic character of that standpoint which had 
been assumed as self-evident. As the rational analysis of society 
arose in close connection with the modern development of natural 
science, so it remained related to it in its whole method of approach. 
In the natural sciences, the practical evaluative attitude toward what 
was immediately and technically useful was closely associated from 
the very first with the hope, taken over as a heritage of antiquity and 
further elaborated, of attaining a purely "objective" (i.e., independ- 
ent of all individual contingencies) monistic knowledge of the total- 
ity of reality in a conceptual system of metaphysical validity and math- 
ematical form. It was thought that this hope could be realized by 
the method of generalizing abstraction and the formulation of laws 
based on empirical analysis. The natural sciences which were bound 
to evaluative standpoints, such as clinical medicine and even more 
what is conventionally called "technology" became purely practical 
"arts." The values for which they strove, e.g.. the health of the 
patient, the technical perfection of a concrete productive process, 


etc., were fixed for the time being for all of them. The methods 
which they used could only consist in the application of the laws 
formulated by the theoretical disciplines. Every theoretical advance 
in the construction of these laws was or could also be an advance 
for the practical disciplines. With the end given, the progressive 
reduction of concrete practical questions (e.g., a case of illness, a 
technical problem, etc.) to special cases of generally valid laws, 
meant that extension of theoretical knowledge was closely associated 
and identical with the extension of technical-practical pos- 

When modern biology subsumed those aspects of reality which 
interest us historically, i.e., in all their concreteness, under a univers- 
ally valid evolutionary principle, which at least had the appearance 
— but not the actuality — of embracing everything essential about 
the subject in a scheme of universally valid laws, this seemed to be 
the final twilight of all evaluative standpoints in all the sciences. For 
since the so-called historical event was a segment of the totality of 
reality, since the principle of causality which was the presupposition 
of all scientific work, seemed to require the analysis of all events into 
generally valid "laws," and in view of the overwhelming success of 
the natural sciences which took this idea seriously, it appeared as if 
there was in general no conceivable meaning of scientific work other 
than the discovery of the laws of events. Only those aspects of phe- 
nomena which were involved in the "laws" could be essential from 
the scientific point of view, and concrete "individual" events could 
be considered only as "types," i.e., as representative illustrations of 
laws. An interest in such events in themselves did not seem to be 
a "scientific" interest. 

It is impossible to trace here the important repercussions of this 
will-to-believe of naturalistic monism in economics. When socialist 
criticism and the work of the historians were beginning to transform 
the original evaluative standpoints, the vigorous development of zoo- 
logical research on one hand and the influence of Hegelian panlogism 
on the other prevented economics from attaining a clear and full 
understanding of the relationship between concept and reality. The 
result, to the extent that we are interested in it, is that despite the 
powerful resistance to the infiltration of naturalistic dogma due to 


German idealism since Fichte and the achievement of the German 
Historical School in law and economics and partly because of the 
very work of the Historical School, the naturalistic viewpoint in cer- 
tain decisive problems has not yet been overcome. Among these 
problems we find the relationship between "theory" and "history," 
which is still problematic in our discipline. 

The "abstract"-theoretical method even today shows unmediated 
and ostensibly irreconcilable cleavage from empirical-historical re- 
search. The proponents of this method recognize in a thoroughly 
correct way the methodological impossibility of supplanting the his- 
torical knowledge of reality by the formulation of laws or, vice versa, 
of constructing "laws" in the rigorous sense through the mere juxta- 
position of historical observations. Now in order to arrive at these 
laws — for they are certain that science should be directed towards 
these as its highest goal — they take it to be a fact that we always 
have a direct awareness of the structure of human actions in all their 
reality. Hence — so they think — science can make human behavior 
directly intelligible with axiomatic evidentness and accordingly reveal 
its laws. The only exact form of knowledge — the formulation of 
immediately and intuitively evident laws — is however at the same 
time the only one which offers access to events which have not been 
directly observed. Hence, at least as regards the fundamental phe- 
nomena of economic life, the construction of a system of abstract and 
therefore purely formal propositions analogous to those of the exact 
natural sciences, is the only means of analyzing and intellectually mas- 
tering the complexity of social life. In spite of the fundamental meth- 
odological distinction between historical knowledge and the knowledge 
of "laws" which the creator of the theory drew as the first and only 
one, he now claims empirical validity, in the sense of the deducibility 
of reality from "laws," for the propositions of abstract theory. It is 
true that this is not meant in the sense of empirical validity of the ab- 
stract economic laws as such, but in the sense that when equally "ex- 
act" theories have been constructed for all the other relevant factors, 
all these abstract theories together must contain the true reality of the 
object — i.e., whatever is worthwhile knowing about it. Exact eco- 
nomic theory deals with the operation of one psychic motive, the 


other theories have as their task the formulation of the behavior of 
all the other motives into similar sorts of propositions enjoying hypo- 
thetical validity. Accordingly, the fantastic claim has occasionally 
been made for economic theories — e.g., the abstract theories of price, 
interest, rent, etc., — that they can, by ostensibly following the analogy 
of physical science propositions, be validly applied to the derivation 
of quantitatively stated conclusions from given real premises, since 
given the ends, economic behavior with respect to means is unambigu- 
ously "determined." This claim fails to observe that in order to be 
able to reach this result even in the simplest case, the totality of the 
existing historical reality including every one of its causal relation- 
ships must be assumed as "given" and presupposed as known. But 
if this type of knowledge were accessible to the finite mind of man, 
abstract theory would have no cognitive value whatsoever. The 
naturalistic prejudice that every concept in the cultural sciences 
should be similar to those in the exact natural sciences has led in 
consequence to the misunderstanding of the meaning of this theoret- 
ical construction {theoretische Gedankengebilde) . It has been be- 
lieved that is is a matter of the psychological isolation of a specific 
"impulse," the acquisitive impulse, or of the isolated study of a specific 
maxim of human conduct, the so-called economic principle. Abstract 
theory purported to be based on psychological axioms and as a result 
historians have called for an empirical psychology in order to show 
the invalidity of those axioms and to derive the course of economic 
events from psychological principles. We do not wish at this point 
to enter into a detailed criticism of the belief in the significance of 
a — still to be created — systematic science of "social psychology" as 
the future foundation of the cultural sciences, and particularly of 
social economics. Indeed, the partly brilliant attempts which have 
been made hitherto to interpret economic phenomena psychologically, 
show in any case that the procedure docs not begin with the analysis 
of psychological qualities, moving then to the analysis of social insti- 
tutions, but that, on the contrary, insight into the psychological pre- 
conditions and consequences of institutions presupposes a precise 
knowledge of the latter and the scientific analysis of their structure. 
In concrete cases, psychological analysis can contribute then an ex- 
tremely valuable deepening of the knowledge of the historical cultural 


conditioning and cultural significance of institutions. The interesting 
aspect of the psychic attitude of a person in a social situation is spe- 
cifically particularized in each case, according to the special cultural 
significance of the situation in cjuestion. It is a question of an ex- 
tremely heterogeneous and highly concrete structure of psychic 
motives and influences. Social-psychological research involves the 
study of various very disparate individual types of cultural elements 
with reference to their interpretability by our empathic understanding. 
Through social-psychological research, with the knowledge of indi- 
vidual institutions as a point of departure, we will learn increasingly 
how to understand institutions in a psychological way. We will not 
however deduce the institutions from psychological laws or explain 
them by elementary psychological phenomena. 

Thus, the far-flung polemic, which centered on the question of 
the psychological justification of abstract theoretical propositions, on 
the scope of the "acquisitive impulse" and the "economic principle," 
etc., turns out to have been fruitless. 

In the establishment of the propositions of abstract theory, it is 
only apparently a matter of "deductions" from fundamental psycho- 
logical motives. Actually, the former are a special case of a kind of 
concept-construction which is peculiar and to a certain extent, in- 
dispensable, to the cultural sciences. It is worthwhile at this point 
to describe it in further detail since we can thereby approach more 
closely the fundamental question of the significance of theory in the 
social sciences. Therewith we leave undiscussed, once and' for all, 
whether the particular analytical concepts which we cite or to which 
we allude as illustrations, correspond to the purposes they are to serve, 
i.e., whether in fact they are well-adapted. The question as to how 
far, for example, contemporary "abstract theory" should be further 
elaborated, is ultimately also a question of the strategy of science, 
which must, however concern itself with other problems as well. Even 
the "theory of marginal utility" is subsumable under a "law of mar- 
ginal utility." 

We have in abstract economic theory an illustration of those syn- 
thetic constructs which have been designated as "ideas" of historical 
phenomena. It offers us an ideal picture of events on the commodity- 
market under conditions of a society organized on the principles of 


an exchange economy, free competition and rigorously rational con- 
duct. This conceptual pattern brings together certain relationships 
and events of historical life into a complex, which is conceived as an 
internally consistent system. Substantively, this construct in itself is 
like a Utopia which has been arrived at by the analytical accentuation 
of certain elements of reality. Its relat ionship to the empirical data^ 
consists solely in the fact that where market-conditioned rela tionships^ 
of the type referred to by the abstract construct are discov ered or 
suspected to exi st in reality to some extent, we can m ake the charac -_^ 
teristic teatures ot this relationship pragmatically clear and under- ^ 
standabte by referefldfe t6 ail JdMl-V^fe. This procedure can be 
jjit 1 Tndisperisable ioi\uieuristi(JWs well aslfexpository purposes.'! The ideal 
I typical concept will help to develop our skill in imputation in rg- 
search . i t is no "hypothesis" but it offers guida nce to the const ruct ion 
of hypotheses. ♦ Jit is not a description of reality but it aims to give 
unambiguous "means of expression to such a description. It is thus 
the "idea" of the historically given modern society, based on an ex- 
change economy, which is developed for us by quite the same logical 
principles as are used in constructing the idea of the medieval "city 
economy" as a "genetic" concept. When we do this, we construct 
the concept "city economy" not as an average of the economic struc- 
tures actually existing in all the cities observed but as an ideal-type. 
An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more 
points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffuse, discrete, 
more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phe- 
nomena, which are arranged according to those cne-sidedly empha- 
sized viewpoints into a unified analytical construaK{Ge dankenbild) . 
In its conce ptual purity, t his mental construct {Gedankenbildf\Qd.n->^ 
not b e found empirically anywhere in reality. It is a Utopia. Histor- 
ical research7aces~tFic~TasTr~or'detOT each individual case, 
the extent to wliich this ideal-construct ap proximates to (h (Hxcicfs 
from reality, to what extent for example, the economic structure ol 
a certain city is to be classified as a "city-economy." When carefully 
applied, those concepts are particularly useful in research and expo- 
sition. In very much the same way one can work the "idea" of 
"handicraft" into a Utopia by arranging certain traits, actually found 
in an unclear, confused state in the industrial enterprises of the most 


diverse epochs and countries, into a consistent ideal-construct by an 
accentuation of thcin'cssential tendencies. This ideal-type is then 
related to the idea {Gedankeyiausdruck) which one finds expressed 
there. One can further delineate a society in which all branches of 
economic and even intellectual activity are governed by maxims 
which appear to be applications of the same principle which charac- 
trizes the ideal-typical "handicraft" system. Furthermore, one can 
juxtapose alongside the ideal typical "handicraft" system the antithesis 
of a correspondingly ideal-typical capitalistic productive system, which 
has been abstracted out of certain features of modern large scale indus- 
try. On the basis of this, one can delineate the Utopia of a "capi- 
talistic" culture, i.e., one in which the governing principle is the in- 
vestment of private capital. This procedure would accentuate certain 
individual concretely diverse traits of modern material and intellec- 
tual culture in its unique aspects into an ideal construct which from 
our point of view would be completely self-consistent. This would 
then be the delineation of an "idea" of capitalistic culture. We must 
disregard for the moment whether and how this procedure could 
be carried out. It is possible, or rather, it must be accepted as 
certain that numerous, indeed a very great many, Utopias of this 
sort can be worked out, of which none is like another, and none of 
which can be observed in empirical reality as an actually existing 
economic system, but each of which however claims that it is a repre- 
sentation of the "idea" of capitalistic culture. Each of these can claim 
to be a representation of the "idea" of capitalistic culture to the ex- 
tent that it has really taken certain traits, meaningful in their essential 
features, from the empirical reality of our culture and brought them 
together into a unified ideal-construct. For those phenomena which 
interest us as cultural phenomena are interesting to us with respect 
to very different kinds of evaluative ideas to which we relate them. 
Inasmuch as the "points of view" from which they can become signifi- 
cant for us are very diverse, the most varied criteria can be applied 
to the selection of the traits which are to enter into the construction 
of an ideal-typical view of a particular culture. 

What is the significance of such ideal-typical constructs for an 
empirical science, as we wish to constitute it? Before going any fur- 
ther, we should emphasize that the idea of an ethical imperative, of 



a "model" of what "ought" to exist is to be carefully distinguished 

<'from the analytical construct, which is "ideal" in the strictly logical 
sense of the term. It is a matter here of constructing relationships 
which our imagination accepts as plausibly motivated and hence as 
"objectively possible" and which appear as adequate from the nomo- 
logical standpoint. 

Whoever accepts the proposition that the knowledge of historical 
reality can or should be a "presuppositionless" copy of "objective" 
facts, will deny the value of the ideal-type. Even those who recog- 
nize that there is no "presuppositionlcssncss" in the logical sense and 
that even the simplest excerpt from a statute or from a documentary 
source can have scientific meaning only with reference to "signifi- 
cance" and ultimately to evaluative ideas, will more or less regard 
the construction of any such historical "utopias" as an expository 
device which endangers the autonomy of historical research and which 
is, in any case, a vain sport. And, in fact, whether we are dealing 
simply with a conceptual game or with a scientifically fruitful method 
of conceptualization and the or y-cor\%X.r\xciion can never be decided a 
priori. Here, too, there is only one criterion, namely, that of suc- 
cess in revealing concrete cultural phenomena in their interdepend- 
ence, their causal conditions and their significance. ^^hc construction 
of abstract ide al-types recommends itself not as an end but as .a 
meansJi Every conscientious examination of the conceptual elements 
(*)f~historical exposition shows however that the historian as soon as 
he attempts to go beyond the bare establishment of concrete relation- 
ships and to determine the cultural significance of even the simplest 
individual event in order to "characterize" it, must use concepts which 
are precisely and unambiguously definable only in the form of ideal 
types. Or arc concepts such as "individualism," "imperialism," "feud- 
alism," "mercantilism," "conventional," etc., and innumerable con- 
cepts of like character by means of which we seek analytically and 
empathically to understand reality constructed substantively by the 
"presuppositionless" description of some concrete phenomenon or 
through the abstract synthesis of those traits which are common to 
numerous concrete phenom(^na? Hundreds of words in the historian's 
\'ocabulary arc ambiguous constructs created to meet the uncon- 
sciously felt need for adequate expression and the meaning of which 


is only concretely felt but not clearly thought out. In a great many 
cases, particularly in the field of descriptive political history, their 
ambiguity has not been prejudicial to the clarity of the presentation. 
It is sufficient that in each case the reader should feel what the his- 
torian had in mind; or, one can content one's self with the idea that 
the author used a particular meaning of the concept with special 
reference to the concrete case at hand. The greater the need how- 
ever for a sharp appreciation of the significance of a cultural phe- 
nomenon, the more imperative is the need to operate with unambigu- 
ous concepts which are not only particularly but also systematically 
defined. A "definition" of such synthetic historical terms according 
to the scheme of genus proximum and differentia specifica is naturally 
nonsense. But let us consider it. Such a form of the establishment 
of the meanings of words is to be found only in axiomatic disciplines 
which use syllogisms. A simple "descriptive analysis" of these con- 
cepts into their components either does not exist or else exists only 
illusorily, for the question arises as to which of these components 
should be regarded as essential. When a genetic definition of the 
content of the concept is sought, there remains only the ideal-type 
in the sense explained above. It is a conceptual construct [Gedanken- 
bild) which is neither historical reality nor even the "true" reality. 
It is even less fitted to serve as a schema under which a real situation 
or action is to be subsumed as one instance. It has the significance 
of a purely ideal limiting concept with which the real situation or 
action is compared and surveyed for the explication of certain of its 
significant components. Such concepts are constructs in terms of 
which we formulate relationships by the application of the category 
of objective possibility. By means of this category, the adequacy of 
our imagination, oriented and disciplined by reality, is judged. 

In this function especially/^he ideal-type is an attempt to analyze -^ 
historically unique configurations or their individual components by^^ 
means of genetic concepts^ Let us take for instance the concepts 
"church" and "sect." Th^ may be broken down purely classifica- 
torily into complexes of characteristics whereby not only the distinc- 
tion between them but also the content of the concept must constantly 
remain fluid. If however I wish to formulate the concept of "sect" 
genetically, e.g., with reference to certain important cultural signifi- 


cances which the "sectarian spirit" has had for modern culture^ cer- 
tain characteristics of both become essential because they stand in an 
adequate causal relationship to those influences. _ However, the con- 
cepts thereupon become ideal-typical in the sense that they appear 
in full conceptual integrity either not at all or only in individual 
instances. • Here as elsewhere every concept which is not purely 
classificatory diverges from reality. But the discursive nature of our 
knowledge, i.e., the fact that we comprehend reality only through a 
chain of intellectual modifications postulates such a conceptual short- 
hand. Our imagination can often dispense with explicit conceptual 
formulations as a means of investigatioti. But as regards exposition, 
to the extent that it wishes to be unambiguous, the use of precise 
formulations in the sphere of cultural analysis is in many cases abso- 
lutely necessary. Whoever disregards it entirely must confine him- 
self to the formal aspect of cultural phenomena, e.g., to legal history. 
The universe of legal norms is naturally clearly definable and is valid 
(in the legal sense!) for historical reality. But social science in our 
sense is concerned with practical significance. This significance how- 
ever can very often be brought unambiguously to mind only by relat- 
ing the empirical data to an ideal limiting case. If the historian (in 
the widest sense of the word) rejects an attrnipt to construct such 
ideal types as a "theoretical construction," i.e., as useless or dispens- 
able for his concrete heuristic purposes, the inevitable consequence is 
either that he consciously or unconsciously uses other similar concepts 
without formulating them verbally and elaborating them logically or 
that he remains stuck in the realm of the vaguely "felt." 

Nothing, however, is more dangerous than the confusion of theory 
and history stemming from naturalistic prejudices. This confusion 
expresses itself firstly in the belief that the "true" content and the 
essence of historical reality is portrayed in such theoretical constructs "* 
or secondly, in the use of these constructs as a procrustcan bed into 
which history is to be forced or thirdly, in the hypostatization of such 
"ideas" as real "forces" and as a "true" reality which operates behind 
the passage of events and which works itself out in history. 

This latter danger is especially great since we are also, indeed 
primarily, accustomed to understand by the "ideas" of an epoch the 
thoughts or ideals which dominated the mass or at least an historically 


decisive number of the persons living in that epoch itself, and who 
were therefore significant as components of its culture. Now there 
are two aspects to this: in the first place, there are certain relation- 
ships between the "idea" in the sense of a tendency of practical or 
theoretical thought and the "idea" in the sense of the ideal-typical 
portrayal of an epoch constructed as a heuristic device. An ideal type 
of certain situations, which can be abstracted from certain character- 
istic social phenomena of an epoch, might — and this is indeed quite 
often the case — have also been present in the minds of the persons 
living in that epoch as an ideal to be striven for in practical life or 
as a maxim for the regulation of certain social relationships. This is 
true of the "idea" of "provision" (Nahrungsschutz) and many other 
Canonist doctrines, especially those of Thomas Aquinas, in relation- 
ship to the modern ideal type of medieval "city economy" which we 
discussed above. The same is also true of the much talked of "basic 
concept" of economics: economic "value." From Scholasticism to 
Marxism, the idea of an objectively "valid" value, i.e., of an ethical 
imperative was amalgamated with an abstraction drawn from the 
empirical process of price formation. The notion that the "value" of 
commodities should be regulated by certain principles of natural law, 
has had and still has immeasurable significance for the development 
of culture — and not merely the culture of the Middle Ages. It has 
also influenced actual price formation very markedly. But what was 
meant and what can be meant by that theoretical concept can be 
made unambiguously clear only through precise, ideal-typical con- 
structs. Those who are so contemptuous of the "Robinsonades" of 
classical theory should restrain themselves if they are unable to 
replace them with better concepts, which in this context means 
clearer concepts. 

Thus the causal relationship between the historically determinable 
idea which governs the conduct of men and those components of 
historical reality from which their corresponding ideal-type may be 
abstracted, can naturally take on a considerable number of different 
forms. The main point to be observed is that in principle they are 
both fundamentally different things. There is still another aspect: 
those "ideas" which govern the behavior of the population of a cer- 
tain epoch i.e., which are concretely influential in determining their 


conduct, can, if a somewhat complicated construct is involved, be 
formulated precisely only in the form of an ideal type, since empiri- 
cally it exists in the minds of an indefinite and constantly changing 
mass of individuals and assumes in their minds the most multifarious 
nuances of form and content, clarity and meaning. Those elements of 
the spiritual life of the individuals living in a certain epoch of the 
Middle Ages, for example, which we may designate as the "Chris- 
tianity" of those individuals, would, if they could be completely por- 
trayed, naturally constitute a chaos of infinitely differentiated and 
highly contradictory complexes of ideas and feelings. This is true 
despite the fact that the medieval church was certainly able to bring 
about a unity of belief and conduct to a particularly high degree. If 
we raise the question as to what in this chaos was the "Christianity" 
of the Middle Ages (which we must nonetheless use as a stable con- 
cept) and wherein lay those "Christian" elements which we find in 
the institutions of the Middle Ages, we see that here too in every 
individual case, we are applying a purely analytical construct 
created by ourselves. It is a combination of articles of faith, norms 
from church law and custom, maxims of conduct, and countless con- 
crete interrelationships which we have fused into an "idea." It is a 
synthesis which we could not succeed in attaining with consistency 
without the application of ideal-type concepts. 

The relationship between the logical structure of the conceptual 
system in which we present such "ideas" and what is immediately 
given in empirical reality naturally varies considerably. It is rela- 
tively simple in cases in which one or a few easily formulated 
theoretical main principles as for instance Calvin's doctrine of pre- 
destination or clearly definable ethical postulates govern human 
conduct and produce historical effects, so that we can analyze the 
"idea" into a hierarchy of ideas which can be logically derived from 
those theses. It is of course easily overlooked that however important 
the significance even of the purely logically persuasive force of ideas 
— Marxism is an outstanding example of this type of force — none- 
theless empirical-historical events occurring in men's minds must be 
understood as primarily psychologically and not logically conditioned. 
The ideal-typical character of such syntheses of historically effective 
ideas is revealed still more clearly when those fundamental main 


principles and postulates no longer survive in the minds of those 
individuals who are still dominated by ideas which were logically or 
associatively derived from them because the "idea" which was his- 
torically and originally fundamental has either died out or has in 
general achieved wide diffusion only for its broadest implications. The 
basic fact that the synthesis is an "idea" which we have created 
emerges even more markedly when those fundamental main principles 
have either only very imperfectly or not at all been raised to the 
level of explicit consciousness or at least have not taken the form 
of explicitly elaborated complexes of ideas. When we adopt this 
procedure, as it very often happens and must happen, we are con- 
cerned in these ideas, e.g., the "liberalism" of a certain period or 
"Methodism" or some intellectually unelaborated variety of "social- 
ism," with a pure ideal type of much the same character as the 
synthetic "principles" of economic epochs in which we had our point 
of departure. The more inclusive the relationships to be presented, 
and the more many-sided their cultural significance has been, the 
more their comprehensive systematic exposition in a conceptual 
system approximates the character of an ideal type, and the less is it 
possible to operate with one such concept. In such situations the 
frequently repeated attempts to discover ever new aspects of sig- 
nificance by the construction of new ideal-typical concepts is all the 
more natural and unavoidable. All expositions for example of the 
"essence" of Christianity are ideal types enjoying only a necessarily 
very relative and problematic validity when they are intended to be 
regarded as the historical portrayal of empirically existing facts. 
On the other hand, such presentations are of great value for research 
and of high systematic value for expository purposes when they are 
used as conceptual instruments for comparison with and the measure- 
ment of reality. They are indispensable for this purpose. 

There is still another even more complicated significance implicit in 
such ideal-typical presentations. They regularly seek to be, or arc 
unconsciously, ideal-types not only in the logical sense but also in the 
practical sense, i.e., they are model types which — in our illustration — 
contain what, from the point of view of the expositor, should be and 
what to him is "essential" in Christianity because it is enduringly 
valuable. If this is consciously or — as it is more frequently — un- 


consciously the case, they contain ideals to which the expositor 
evaluatively relates Christianity. These ideals are tasks and ends 
towards which he orients his "idea" of Christianity and which natur- 
ally can and indeed doubtless always will differ greatly from the 
values which other persons, for instance, the early Christians, con- 
nected with Christianity. In this sense, however, the "ideas" are 
naturally no longer purely logical auxiliary devices, no longer con- 
cepts with which reality is compared, but ideals by which it is 
evaluatively judged. Here it is no longer a matter of the purely 
theoretical procedure of treating empirical reality with respect to 
values but of value-judgments which are integrated into the concept 
of "Christianity." Because the ideal type claims empirical validity 
here, it penetrates into the realm of the evaluative interpretation of 
Christianity'. The sphere of empirical science has been left behind and 
we are confronted with a profession of faith, not an ideal-typical 
construct. As fundamental as this distinction is in principle, the con- 
fusion of these two basically different meanings of the term "idea" 
appears with extraordinary frequency in historical writings. It is 
always close at hand whenever the descriptive historian begins to 
develop his "conception" of a personality or an epoch. In contrast 
with the fixed ethical standards which Schlosser applied in the spirit 
of rationalism, the modern relativistically educated historian who on 
the one hand seeks to "understand" the epoch of which he speaks 
"in its own terms," and on the other still seeks to "judge" it, feels the 
need to derive the standards for his judgment from the subject-matter 
itself, i.e., to allow the "idea" in the sense of the ideal to emerge from 
the "idea" in the sense of the "ideal-type." The esthetic satisfaction 
produced by such a procedure constantly tempts him to disregard the 
line where these two ideal types diverge — an error which on the one 
hand hampers the value-judgment and on the other, strives to free 
itself from the responsibility for its own judgment. In contrast with 
this, the elementary duty of scientific self-control and the only way 
to avoid serious and foolish blunders requires a sharp, precise dis- 
tinction between the logically comparative analysis of reality by ideal- 
types in the logical sense and the value-judgment of reality on the 
basis of ideals. An "ideal type" in our sense, to repeat once more, 
has no connection at all with value-judgments, and it has nothing to 


do with any type of perfection other than a purely logical one. There 
are ideal types of brothels as well as of religions; there are also ideal 
types of those kinds of brothels which are technically "expedient" 
from the point of view of police ethics as well as those of which the 
exact opposite is the case. 

It is necessary for us to forego here a detailed discussion of the 
case which is by far the most complicated and most interesting, name- 
ly, the problem of the logical structure of the concept of the state. The 
following however should be noted : when we inquire as to what cor- 
responds to the idea of the "state" in empirical reality, we find an 
infinity of diffuse and discrete human actions, both active and pas- 
sive, factually and legally regulated relationships, partly unique and 
partly recurrent in character, all bound together by an idea, namely, 
the belief in the actual or normative validity of rules and of the author- 
ity-relationships of some human beings towards others. This belief is in 
par consciously, in part dimly felt, and in part passively accepted by 
persons who, should they think about the "idea" in a really clearly 
defined manner, would not first need a "general theory of the state" 
which aims to articulate the idea. The scientific conception of the 
state, however it is formulated, is naturally always a synthesis which 
we construct for certain heuristic purposes. But on the other hand, it 
is also abstracted from the unclear syntheses which are found in the 
minds of human beings. The concrete content, however, which the 
historical "state" assumes in those syntheses in the minds of those 
who make up the state, can in its turn only be made explicit through 
the use of ideal-typical concepts. Nor, furthermore, can there be the 
least doubt that the manner in which those syntheses are made 
(always in a logically imperfect form) by the members of a state, or 
in other words, the "ideas" which they construct for themselves about 
the state — as for example, the German "organic" metaphysics of 
the state in contrast with the American "business" conception, is of 
great practical significance. In other words, here too the practical 
idea which should be valid or is believed to be valid and the heuris- 
tically intended, theoretically ideal type approach each other very 
closely and constantly tend to merge with each other. 

We have purposely considered the ideal type essentially — if not 


exclusively — as a mental construct for the scrutiny and systematic 
characterization of indi vidual concrete patt erns which are signifi- 
cant in their uniqueness, such as Christianity, capitalism, etc. We 
did this in order to avoid the common notion that in the sphere 
of cultural phenomena, the abstract type is identical with the abstract 
kind (Gattufigsmdssigen) . This is not the case. Without being able 
to make here a full logical analysis of the widely discussed concept 
of the "typical" which has been discredited through misuse, we can 
state on the basis of our previous discussion that the construction of 
type-concepts in the sense of the exclusion of the "accidental" also 
has a place in the analysis of historically individual phenomena. 
Naturaly, however, those generic concepts which we constantly en- 
counted as elements of historical analysis and of concrete historical 
concepts, can also be formed as ideal-types by abstracting and ac- 
centuating certain conceptually essential elements. Practically, this 
is indeed a particularly frequent and important instance of the 
application of ideal-typical concepts. -Every individual ideal type 
comprises both generic and ideal-typically constructed conceptual 
elements. In this case too, we see the specifically logical func- 
tion of ideal-typical concepts. The concept of "exchange" is for 
instance a simple class concept (Gattungsbegriff) in the sense of a 
complex of traits which are common to many phenomena, as long 
as we disregard the meaning of the component parts of the concept, 
and simply analyze the term in its everyday usage. If however we 
relate this concept to the concept of "marginal utility" for instance, 
and construct the concept of "economic exchange" as an economic- 
ally rational event, this then contains as every concept of "economic 
exchange" does which is fully elaborated logically, a judgment con- 
cerning the "typical" conditions of exchange. It assumes a genetic 
character and becomes therewith ideal-typical in the logical sense, 
i.e., it removes itself from empirical reality which can only be com- 
pared or related to it. The same is true of all the so-called "funda- 
mental concepts" of economics: they can be developed in genetic 
form only as ideal types. The distinction between simple class or 
generic concepts {Gattungsbegriff e) which merely summarize the 
common features of certain empirical phenomena and the quasi- 
generic (Gattungsmdssigen) ideal type — -as for instance and ideal- 


typical concept of the "nature" of "handicraft" — varies naturally 
with each concrete case. But no class or generic concept as s\uh has 
a "typical" character and there is no purely generic "average" 
type. Wherever we speak of typical magnitudes — as for example, in 
statistics — we speak of something more than a mere average. The 
more it is a matter of the simple classification of events which appear 
in reality as mass phenomena, the more it is a matter of class con- 
cepts. On the other hand, the greater the event to which we 
conceptualize complicated historical patterns with respect to those 
components in which their specific cultural significance is contained, 
the greater the extent to which the concept — or system of concepts 
— will be ideal-typical in character. T he goal of ideal-typical con- ^^ 
ce pt-construction is alwa ys to make clearly explicit not the class or ^^ jp 
average character but rather the unique individual character ot 
cultural phenomena. 

le fact that ideal types, even classificatory ones, can be and are 
applied, first acquires methodological significance in connection with 
another fact. 

Thus far we have been dealing with ideal-types only as abstract 
concepts of relationships which are conceived by us as stable in the 
flux of events, as historically individual complexes in which develop- 
ments are realized. There emerges however a complication, which 
reintroduces with the aid of the concept of "type" the naturalistic 
prejudice that the goal of the social sciences must be the reduction of 
reality to "laws.'' i^Jevelo pmental sequences toJ> can be constructed 
into ideal types and these construct s c an have quite considerable h eu- 
nst icvaTue. But this quite particularly gives rise to the danger that 
The ideal type and reality will be confused with one another. One 
can, for example, arrive at the theoretical conclusion that in a society 
which is organized on strict "handicraft" principles, the only source 
of capital accumulation can be ground rent. From this perhaps, one 
can — for the correctness of the construct is not in question here — 
construct a pure ideal picture of the shift, conditioned by certain 
specific factors — e.g., limited land, increasing population, influx of 
precious metals, rationalisation of the conduct of life — from a 
handicraft to a capitalistic economic organization. Whether the 
empirical-historical course of development was actually identical with 


the constructed one, can be investigated only by usin g this constr uct 
as a heuristic device for th e comparison oT the i deal type and the 
.' H'a^'^s , " It the ideal tvpp were "rnrrprtlv" constructed and the actual 
course of events did not correspond to that predicted by the ideal 
type, the hypothesis that medieval society was not in certain respects a 
strictly "handicraft" type of society would be proved. And if the 
ideal type were constructed in a heuristically "ideal" way — whether 
and in what way this could occur in our example will be entirely 
disregarded here — it will guide the investigation into a path leading 
to a more precise understanding of the non-handicraft components 
of medieval society in their peculiar characteristics and their historical 
significance. // it leads to this result, it fulfils its logical purpose, 
even though, in doing so, it demonstrates its divergence from reality. 
/It was — in this case — the test of an hypothesis. This procedure 
j gives rise to no methodological doubts so long as we clearly keep in 
mind that ideal-typical developmental constructs and history are to 
be sharply distinguished from each other, and that the construct here 
is no more than the means for explicitly and validly imputing an his- 
torical event to its real causes while eliminating those which on the 
basis of our present knowledge seem possible. 

The maintenance of this distinction in all its rigor often becomes 
uncommonly difficult in practice due to a certain circumstance. In 
the interest of the concrete demonstration of an ideal type or of an 
ideal-typical developmental sequence, one seeks to make it clear by 
the use of concrete illustrative material drawn from empirical-historical 
reality. The danger of this procedure which in itself is entirely 
legitimate lies in the fact that historical knowledge here appears as a 
servant of theory instead of the opposite role. It is a great tempta- 
tion for the theorist to regard this relationship either as the normal 
one or, far worse, to mix theory with history and indeed to confuse 
them with each other. This occurs in an extreme way when an ideal 
construct of a developmental sequence and a conceptual classification 
of the ideal-types of certain cultural structures (e.g., the forms of 
industrial production deriving from the "closed domestic economy" 
or the religious concepts beginning with the "gods of the moment") 
are integrated into a genetic classification. The series of types which 
results from the selected conceptual criteria appears then as an 


historical sequence unrolling with the necessity of a law. The logical 
classification of analytical concepts on the one hand and the em- 
pirical arrangements of the events thus conceptualized in space, time, 
and causal relationship, on the other, appear to be so bound up 
together that there is an almost irresistible temptation to do violence 
to reality in order to prove the real validity of the construct. 

We have intentionally avoided a demonstration with respect to that 
ideal-typical construct which is the most important one from our point 
of view; namely, the Marxian theory. This was done in order not to 
complicate the exposition any further through the introduction of an 
interpretation of Marx and in order not to anticipate the discussions 
in our journal which will make a regular practice of presenting critical 
analyses of the literature concerning and following the great thinker. 
We will only point out here that naturally all specifically Marxian [ \\^ 
"laws" and deyelopmental constructs — insofar as t hey are th eoretic- ^ 
ally sound — are ideal types. The eminent, indeed unique, heuristic • \ 
significance of these ideal types when they are used for the assessment 
of reality is knbwri to everyone who has ever employed Ma r xian 
concepts and hypotheses. Similarly, their perniciousness, as soon as 
they are thought of as empirically valid or as real (i.e., truly meta- 
physical) "effective forces," "tendencies," etc. is likewise known to 
those who have used them. 

Class or generic concepts (Gattungsbegriffe) — ideal types| — 
ideal-typical generic concepts — ideas in the sense of thought-patterns 
which actually exist in the minds of human beings — ideal types of 
such ideas — ideals which govern human beings — ideal types of 
such ideals — ideals with which the historian approaches historical 
facts — theoretical constructs using empirical data illustratively — 
historical investigations which utilize theoretical concepts as ideal 
limiting cases — the various possible combinations of these which 
could only be hinted at here ; they are pure mental constructs, the rela- 
tionships of which to the empirical reality of the immediately given 
is problematical in every individual case. This list of possibilities only 
reveals the infinite ramifications of the conceptual-methodological 
problems which face us in the sphere of the cultural sciences. We 
must renounce the serious discussion of the practical methodological 
issues the problems of which were only to be exhibited, as well as 


the detailed treatment of the relationships of ideal types to "laws," 
of ideal-typical concepts to collective concepts, etc. . . 

The historian will still insist, even after all these discussions, that 
the prevalence of ideal-typical concepts and constructs are charac- 
teristic symptoms of the adolescence of a discipline. And in a certain 
sense this must be conceded, but with other conclusions than he could 
draw from it. Let us take a few illustrations from other disciplines. 
It is certainly true that the harried fourth-form boy as well as the 
primitive philologist first conceives of a language "organically," i.e., 
as a meta-empirical totality regulated by norms, but the task of lin- 
guistic science is to establish which grammatical rules should be valid. 
The logical elaborations of the written language, i.e., the reduction 
of its content to rules, as was done for instance by the Accademia delta 
Crusca, is normally the first task which "philology" sets itself. When, 
in contrast with this, a leading philologist today declares that the 
subject-matter of philology is the "speech of every individual," even 
the formulation of such a program is possible only after there is a 
relatively clear ideal type of the written language, which the other- 
wise entirely orientationless and unbounded investigation of the in- 
finite variety of speech can utilize (at least tacitly). The constructs 
of the natural law and the organic theories of the state have exactly 
the same function and, to recall an ideal type in our sense, so does 
Benjamin Constant's theory of the ancient state. It serves as a harbor 
until one has learned to navigate safely in the vast sea of empirical 
facts. The coming of age of science in fact always implies the tran- 
scendance of the ideal-type, insofar as it was thought of as possessing 
empirical validity or as a class concept (Gattungsbegriff) . However, 
it is still legitimate today to use the brilliant Constant hypothesis to 
demonstrate certain aspects and historically unique features of ancient 
political life, as long as one carefully bears in mind its ideal-typical 
character. Moreover, there are sciences to which eternal youth is 
granted, and the historical disciplines are among them — all those to 
which the eternally onward flowing stream of culture perpetually 
brings new problems. At the very heart of their task lies not only the 
transciency of all ideal types but also at the same time the inevitability 
of new ones. 

The attempts to determine the "real" and the "true" meaning of 


historical concepts always reappear and never succeed in reaching 
their goal. Accordingly the synthetic concepts used by historians are 
either imperfectly defined or, as soon as the elimination of ambiguity 
is sought for, the concept becomes an abstract ideal type and reveals 
itself therewith as a theoretical and hence "one-sided" viewpoint 
which illuminates the aspect of reality with which it can be related. 
But these concepts are shown to be obviously inappropriate as schema 
into which reality could be completely integrated. For none of 
those systems of ideas, which are absolutely indispensable in the 
understanding of those segments of reality which are meaningful at 
a particular moment, can exhaust its infinite richness. They are all 
attempts, on the basis of the present state of our knowledge and the 
available conceptual patterns, to bring order into the chaos of those 
facts which we have drawn into the field circumscribed by our interest. 
The intellectual apparatus which the past has developed through the 
analysis, or more truthfully, the analytical rearrangement of the imme- 
diately given reality, and through the latter's integration by concepts 
which correspond to the state of its knowledge and the focus of its 
interest, is in constant tension with the new knowledge which we can 
and desire to wrest from reality. The progress of cultural science 
occurs through this conflict. Its result is the perpetual reconstruction 
of those concepts through which we seek to comprehend reality. The 
history of the social sciences is and remains a continuous process 
passing from the attempt to order reality analytically through the 
construction of concepts — the dissolution of the analytical con- 
structs so constructed through the expansion and shift of the scientific 
horizon — and the reformulation anew of concepts on the foundations 
thus transformed. It is not the error of the attempt to construct 
conceptual systems in general which is shown by this process — 
every science, even simple descriptive history, operates with the con- 
ceptual stock-in-trade of its time. Rather, this process shows that 
in the cultural sciences concept-construction depends on the setting 
of the problem, and the latter varies with the content of culture 
itself. The relationship between concept and reality in the cultural 
sciences involves the transitoriness of all such syntheses. The great 
attempts at theory-construction in our science were always useful for 
revealing the limits of the significance of those points of view which 


provided theii" foundations. The greatest advances in the sphere of 
the social sciences are substantively tied up with the shift in practical 
cultural problems and take the guise of a critique of concept-con- 
struction. Adherence to the purpose of this critique and therewith 
the investigation of the principles of syntheses in the social sciences 
shall be among the primary tasks of our journal. 

In the conclusions which are to be drawn from what has been 
said, we come to a point where perhaps our views diverge here and 
there from those of many, and even the most outstanding, representa- 
tives of the Historical School, among whose offspring we too are to 
be numbered. The latter still hold in many ways, expressly or tacitly, 
to the opinion that it is the end and the goal of every science to order 
its data into a system of concepts, the content of which is to be 
acquired and slowly perfected through the observation of empirical 
regularities, the construction of hypotheses, and their verification, 
until finally a "completed" and hence deductive science emerges. 
For this goal, the historical-inductive work of the present-day is a 
preliminary task necessitated by the imperfections of our discipline. 
Nothing can be more suspect, from this point of view, that the con- 
struction and application of clear-cut concepts since this seems to 
be an over-hasty anticipation of the remote future. 

This conception was, in principle, impregnable within the frame- 
work of the classical-scholastic epistemology which was still funda- 
mentally assumed by the majority of the research-workers identified 
with the Historical School. The function of concepts was assumed 
to be the reproduction of "objective" reality in the analyst's imagina- 
tion. Hence the recurrent references to the unreality of all clear-cut 
concepts. If one perceives the implications of the fundamental ideas 
of modern epistemology which ultimately derives from Kant; namely, 
that concepts are primarily analytical instruments for the intellectual 
mastery of empirical data and can be only that, the fact that precise 
genetic concepts are necessarily ideal types will not cause him to 
desist from constructing them. The relationship between concept and 
historical research is reversed for those who appreciate this; the goal 
of the Historical School then appears as logically impossible, the 
concepts are not ends but are means to the end of understanding 
phenomena which are significant from concrete individual viewpoints. 


Indeed, it is just because the content of historical concepts is neces- 
sarily subject to change that they must be formulated precisely and 
clearly on all occasions. In their application, their character as ideal 
analytical constructs should be carefully kept in mind, and the ideal- 
type and historical reality should not be confused with each other. It 
should be understood that since really definitive historical concepts 
are not in general to be thought of as an ultimate end in view of the 
inevitable shift of the guiding value-ideas, the construction of sharp 
and unambiguous concepts relevant to the concrete individual view- 
point which directs our interest at any given time, alTords the pos- 
sibility of clearly realizing the limits of their validity. 

It will be pointed out and wc ourselves have already admitted, that 
in a particular instance the course of a concrete historical event can 
be made vixidly clear without its being analyzed in terms of ex- 
plicitly defined concepts. And it will accordingly be claimed for the 
historians in our field, that they may, as has been said of the political 
historians, speak the "language of life itself." Certainly! But it should 
be added that in this procedure, the attainment of a level of explicit 
awareness of the viewpoint from which the events in question get 
their significance remains highly accidental. We are in general not in 
the favorable position of the political historian for whom the cultural 
views to which he orients his presentation are usually unambiguous — 
or seem to be so. Every type of purely direct concrete description 
bears the mark of artistic portrayal. "Each sees what is in his own 
heart." Valid judi^ments always presuppose the looical analysis of 
what is concretely and immediately perceived, i.e. the use of concepts. 
It is indeed possible and often aesthetically satisfying to keep these 
in petto but it always endangers the security of the reader's orienta- 
tion, and often that of the author himself concerning the content and 
scope of his judgments. 

The neglect of clear-cut concept-construction in practical discus- 
sions of practical, economic and social policy can, however, become 
particularly dangerous. It is really unbelievable to an outsider what 
confusion has been fostered, for instance, by the use of the term 
"value" — that unfortunate child of misery of our science, which can 
be given an unambiguous meaning only as an ideal type — or terms 
like "productive," "from an economic viewpoint," etcetera, which in 


general will not stand up under a conceptually precise analysis. 
Collective concepts taken from the language of everyday life have par- 
ticularly unwholesome effects. In order to have an illustration easy 
for the layman to understand, let us take the concept of "agricul- 
ture" especially as it appears in the term "the interests of agricul- 
ture." If we begin with "the interests of agriculture" as the empir- 
ically determinable, more or less clear subjective ideas of concrete 
economically active individuals about their own interests and dis- 
regard entirely the countless conflicts of interest taking place among 
the cattle breeders, the cattle growers, grain growers, corn consum- 
ers, corn-using, whiskey-distilling farmers, perhaps not all laymen, 
but certainly every specialist will know the great whirlpool of an- 
tagonistic and contradictory forms of value-relationship ( Wertbezie-^ 
hung) which are vaguely thought of under that heading. We will 
enumerate only a few of them here: the interests of farmers, who 
\vish to sell their property and who are therefore interested in a 
rapid rise of the price of land; the diametrically opposed interest of 
those who wish to buy, rent or lease; the interest of those who wish to 
retain a certain property to the social advantage of their descendants 
and who are therefore interested in the stability of landed property; 
the antagonistic interests of those who, in their own or their chil- 
drens' interests, wish to see the land go to the most enterprising 
farmer — or what is not exactly the same — to the purchaser with 
the most capital; the purely economic interest in economic freedom 
of movement of the most "competent farmer" in the business sense; 
the antagonistic interests of certain dominating classes in the main- 
tenance of the traditional social and political position of their own 
"class" and thereby of their descendants; the interest of the socially 
subordinated strata of farmers in the decline of the strata which arc 
above them and which oppress them ; in occasional contradition to this 
the interest of this stratum in having the leadership of those above 
them to protect their economic interests. This list could be tremen- 
dously increased, without coming to an end although we have been as 
summary and imprecise as possible. 

We will pass over the fact that most diverse purely ideal values are 
mixed and associated with, hinder and divert the more "egoistic" inter- 
ests in order to remind ourselves, above all, that when we speak of the 


"interests of agriculture" we think not only of those material and ideal 
values to which the farmers themselves at a given time relate their 
interests, but rather those partly quite heterogeneous value-ideas 
which we can relate with agriculture. As instances of these value- 
ideas related to agriculture we may cite the interests in production 
derived from the interests in cheap and qualitatively good food, 
which two interests are themselves not always congruous and in 
connection with which many clashes between the interests of city 
and country can be found, and in which the interests of the present 
generation need not by any means always be identical with the interests 
of coming generations; interests in a numerous population, particu- 
larly in a large rural population, derived either from the foreign or 
domestic interests of the "State," or from other ideal interests of the 
most diverse sort, e.g., the expected influence of a large rural popu- 
lation on the character of the nation's culture. These "population- 
interests" can clash with the most diverse economic interests of all 
sections of the rural population, and indeed with all the present 
interests of the mass of rural inhabitants. Another instance is the 
interest in a certain type of social stratification of the rural population, 
because of the type of political or cultural influence which will be 
produced therefrom; this interest can, depending on its orientation, 
conflict with every conceivable (even the most urgent present and 
future) interests of the individual farmers as well as those "of the 
State." To this is added a further complication: the "state," to the 
"interests" of which we tend to relate such and numerous other 
similar individual interests, is often only a blanket term for an 
extremely intricate tangle of evaluative-ideas, to which it in its turn 
is related in individual cases, e.g., purely military security from 
external dangers; security of the dominant position of a dynasty or a 
certain class at home; interest in the maintenance and expansion of 
the formal-juridicial unity of the nation for its own sake or in the 
interest of maintaining certain objective cultural values which in 
their turn again are very diff'erentiated and which we as a politically 
unified people believe we represent; the reconstruction of the social 
aspects of the state according to certain once more diverse cultural 
ideas. It would lead us too far even merely to mention what is 
contained under the general label "state-interests" to which we can 


relate "agriculture." The illustrations which we have chosen and 
our even briefer analyses arc crude and simplified. The non-specialist 
may now analyze similarly (and more thoroughly) for instance "the 
class interests of the worker" in order to see what contradictory ele- 
ments, composed partly of the workers' interests and ideals, and 
partly of the ideals with which we view the workers, enter into this 
concept. It is impossible to overcome the slogans of the conflict of 
interests through a purely empirical emphasis on their "relative" 
character. The clear-cut, sharply defined analysis of the various 
possible standpoints is the only path which will lead us out of verbal 
confusion. The "free trade argument" as a Weltanschauung or as a 
valid norm is ridiculous but — and this is equally true whichever 
ideals of commercial policy the individual accepts — our underestima- 
tion of the heuristic value of the wisdom of the world's greatest mer- 
chants as expressed in such ideal-typical formulae has caused serious 
damage to our discussions of commercial policy. Only through 
ideal-typical concept-construction do the viewpoints with which we 
are concerned in individual cases become explicit. Their peculiar 
character is brought out by the coiijrontation of empirical reality 
with the ideal-type. The use of the undifferentiated collective con- 
cepts of everyday speech is always a cloak for confusion of thought 
and action. It is, indeed, very often an instrument of specious and 
fraudulent procedures. It is, in brief, always a means of obstructing 
the proper formulation of the problem. 

We are now at the end of this discussion, the only purpose of 
which was to trace the course of the hair-line which separates science 
from faith and to make explicit the meaning of the quest for social 
and economic knowledge. The objective validity of all empirical 
knowledge rests exclusively upon the ordering of the given reality 
according to categories which are subjective in a specific sense, namely, 
in that they present the presuppositions of our knowledge and are 
based on the presupposition of the value of those truths which empiri- 
cal knowledge alone is able to give us. The means available to our 
science offer nothing to those persons to whom this truth is of no 
value. It should be remembered that the belief in the value of 
scientific truth is the product of certain cultures and is not a product 
of man's original nature. Those for whom scientific truth is of no 


value will seek in vain for some other truth to take the place of 
science in just those respects in which it is unique, namely, in the 
provision of concepts and judgments which are neither empirical 
reality nor reproductions of it but which facilitate its analytical order- 
ing in a valid manner. In the empirical social sciences, as we have 
seen, the possibility of meaningful knowledge of what is essential for 
us in the infinite richness of events is bound up with the unremitting 
application of viewpoints of a specifically particularized character, 
which, in the last analysis, arc oriented on the basis of evaluative 
ideas. These evaluative ideas are for their part empirically discover- 
able and analyzable as elements of meaningful human conduct, but 
their validity can 7iot be deduced from empirical data as such. The 
"objectivity" of the social sciences depends rather on the fact that 
the empirical data are always related to those evaluative ideas which 
alone make them worth knowing and the significance of the empiri- 
cal data is derived from these evaluative ideas. But these data can 
never become the foundation for the empirically impossible proof 
of the validity of the evaluative ideas. The belief which we all have 
in some form or other, in the meta-empirical validity of ultimate and 
final values, in which the meaning of our existence is rooted, is not 
incompatible with the incessant changefulness of the concrete view- 
points, from which empirical reality gets its significance. Both these 
views are, on the contrary, in harmony with each other. Life with 
its irrational reality and its store of possible meanings is inexhaustible. 
The concrete form in which value-relevance occurs remains perpetu- 
ally in flux, ever subject to change in the dimly seen future of human 
culture. The light which emanates from those highest evaluative 
ideas always falls on an ever changing finite segment of the vast 
chaotic stream of events, which flows away through time. 

Now all this should not be misunderstood to mean that the proper 
task of the social sciences should be the continual chase for new view- 
points and new analytical constructs. Oji the contrary, nothing 
should be more sharply emphasized than the proposition that the 
knowledge of the cultural significance of concrete historical events 
and patterns is exclusively and solely the final end which, among 
other means, concept-construction and the criticism of constructs 
also seek to serve. 


There are, to use the words of F, Th. Vischer, "subject matter 
speciaHsts" and "interpretative specialists." The fact-greedy gullet 
of the former can be filled only with legal documents, statistical work- 
sheets and questionnaires, but he is insensitive to the refinement of a 
new idea. The gourmandlse of the latter dulls his taste for facts by 
ever new intellectual subtilities. That genuine artistry which, among 
the historians, Ranke possessed in such a grand measure, manifests 
itself through its ability to produce new knowledge by interpreting 
already kyiown facts according to known viewpoints. 

All research in the cultural sciences in an age of specialization, 
once it is oriented towards a given subject matter through particular 
settings of problems and has established its methodological princi- 
ples, will consider the analysis of the data as an end in itself. It will 
discontinue assessing the value of the individual facts in terms of 
their relationships to ultimate value-ideas. Indeed, it will lose its 
awareness of its ultimate rootedness in the value-ideas in general. 
And it is well that should be so. But there comes a moment when 
the atmosphere changes. The significance of the unreflectively util- 
ized viewpoints becomes uncertain and the road is lost in the twi- 
light. The light of the great cultural problems moves on. Then 
science too prepares to change its standpoint and its analytical appa- 
ratus and to view the streams of events from the heights of thought. 
It follows those stars which alone are able to give meaning and 
direction to its labors: 

" der neue Trieb erwacht, 

Ich eile fort, ihr ewiges Licht zu trinken, 

Vor mir den Tag und unter mir die Nacht, 

Den Ilimmel iiber mir und unter mir die Wellen."^ 

^Faust: Act I, Scene II. (Translated by Bayard -Taylor) 
"The newborn impulse fires my mind, 
I hasten on, his beams eternal drinking, 
The Day before me and the Night behind, 
Above me Heaven unfurled, the floor of waves beneath me." 

Critical Studies in the Logic 
of the Cultural Sciences 



HEN ONE OF OUR most eminent historians feels impelled 
to give an account to himself and his colleagues of the aims and 
methods of his scholarly work, this must necessarily arouse an 
interest far beyond the limits of his special discipline because in do- 
ing so he passes beyond the boundaries of his special discipline and 
enters into the area of methodological analysis. This has to begin 
with certain unfavorable consequences. The categories of logic, 
which in its present state of development is a specialized discipline 
like any other, require, if they are to be utilized with assurance, the 
same daily familiarity as those of any other discipline. Obviously, 
Eduard Meyer, whose Zur Theorie und Methodik der Geschitchte 
(Hadle, 1900) ) we are discussing here, does not and cannot claim 
such constant contact with logic anymore than the author of the fol- 
lowing pages. The methodological details of that work are, so to 
speak, a diagnosis not by the physician but by the patient himself, 
and they are intended to be evaluated and understood as such. The 
professional methodologist will take umbrage at many of Meyer's 
formulations and he will not learn much that is really new for his 



purposes from the work itself. But this does not diminish its signifi- 
cance for the neighboring special disciplines.^ 

Indeed, the most significant achievements of specialist methodology 
use "ideal-typically" constructed conceptions of the objectives and 
methods of the special disciplines, and are therefore so far risen over 
the heads of the latter that it is often difficult for the special discip- 
lines to recognize themselves with the naked eye in these discussions. 
For this reason methodological discussions rooted within their own 
subject matter may be more useful for the self-clarification of special 
disciplines in spite of, and in a sense even because of, their methodo- 
logically imperfect formulation. Indeed, the easy intelligibility of 
Meyer's exposition offers the specialist in the neighboring disciplines 
the opportunity to focus attention on a whole series of points for the 
purpose of resolving certain logical problems which he shares in 
common with "historians" in the narrower sense of the word. 

Such is the aim of the following discussions which, in connection 
with Meyer's book, will attempt to elucidate concretely a whole 
series, in sequence, of specific logical problems, and will then critic- 
ally review a number of further newer works on the logic of the 
cultural sciences from the standpoint arrived at in the course of 
our discussion of Meyer. We are intentionally taking our point of 
departure in purely historical problems and will enter only in the 
later stage of our discussions on those disciplines concerned with 
social life which seek to arrive at "rules" or "laws"; we do this 
especially because hitherto the attempt has usually been made to 
define the nature of the social sciences by distinguishing them from 
the "natural sciences." In this procedure there is always the tacit 
assumption that history is a discipline which devotes itself exclusively 
to the collection of materials, or if not that, is a purely descriptive 
discipline which in fortunate cases drags in "facts" which serve as the 

'^Mt is to be hoped that the reader will not attribute the following criticism, 
which purposely searches out the weaknesses in Meyer's formulations, to the 
need to appear clever. The errors which an outstanding author makes are 
more instructive than the correct statements of a scientific nonentity. It is 
not our intention to assess the achievement of Eduard Meyer but rather the 
contrary: to learn from his inadequacies in such a way that we can under- 
stand how he attempted, with very different degrees of success, to cope with 
certain important problems of historical methodology. 


building materials for the intellectual work which "really" begins 
only after the historical work has been done. And what is more, even 
the professional historians, unfortunately, have contributed not a 
little to the strengthening of the prejudice that "historical work" is 
something qualitatively different from "scientific work" because "con- 
cepts" and "rules" are of "no concern" to history; they have done 
this by the way in which they have sought to define the specific 
character of "history" in the specialist's sense of the word. Since 
social science is itself usually given an "historical" foundation because 
of the persisting influence of the "historical school," and since for 
this reason the relationship of our discipline to theory has remained 
problematic even as it was twenty-five years ago, it appears to be 
correct procedure to ask, first, what is to be understood logically by 
"historical" research, and to decide this question in the domain of 
what is indubitably and generally acknowledged to be historiography, 
with which the book we are now criticizing is primarily concerned. 
Eduard Meyer begins with a warning against the over-estimation 
of the significance of methodological studies for the practice of his- 
tory: the most comprehensive methodological knowledge will not 
make anyone into an historian, and incorrect methodological view- 
points do not necessarily entail erroneous scientific practice; they 
show, rather, only that the historian can formulate or interpret in- 
correctly his own correct maxims of procedure. The following pro- 
position recommends itself as essentially true: methodology can only 
bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demon- 
strated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit 
consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual 
work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition for "correct" 
walking. Indeed, just as the person who attempted to govern his 
mode of walking continuously by anatomical knowledge would be 
in danger of stumbling so the professional scholar who attempted to 
determine the aims of his own research extrinsically on the basis of 
methodological reflections would be in danger of falling into the same 
difficulties.^ If methodological work — and this is naturally its 

" This would, as we shall show, also happen in the case of Eduard Meyer if 
he began taking many of his own assertions with literal seriousness. 


intention — can at some point serve the practice of the historian 
directly, it is indeed, by enabling him once and for all to escape from 
the danger of being imposed on by a philosophically embellished 
dilettantism. Only by laying bare and solving substantive problems 
can sciences be established and their methods developed. On the 
other hand, purely epistemological and methodological reflections 
have never played the crucial role in such developments. Such dis- 
cussions can become important for the enterprise of science only 
w^hen, as a result of considerable shifts of the "viewpoint" from which 
a datum becomes the object of analysis, the idea emerges that the 
new "viewpoint" also requires a revision of the logical forms in which 
the "enterprise" has heretofore operated, and when, accordingly, 
uncertainty about the "nature" of one's own work arises. This situa- 
tion is unambiguously the case at present as regards history, and 
Eduard Meyer's view about the insignificance in principle of method- 
ology for "practice" has rightly not prevented him from now busying 
himself with methology. 

He begins, first, with an exposition of those theories which re- 
cently, from the methodological standpoint, have sought to transform 
historical studies, and he formulates the standpoint which he will wish 
to criticize in particular (page 3), as asserting that: 

1. the following are insignificant for history and are thus not 
to be looked upon as properly belonging to a scientific exposition: 

a. the "accidental"; 

b. the "freely" willed decision of concrete personalities; 

c. the influence of "ideas" on the actions of human beings; 
— as asserting on the contrary, 

2. that the proper objects of scientific knowledge are: 

a. "mass phenomena" in contrast to individual actions; 

b. the "typical" in contrast with the "particular"; 

c. the development of "communities," especially social 
"classes" or "nations," in contrast with the political actions of 

and as asserting finally that 

3. historical development, because it is scientifically intelli- 
gible only in a causal manner is to be conceived as a process 


following "laws," Consequently, the discovery of the necessary 
"typical" sequence of "developmental stages" of human com- 
munities and the integration of the rich variety of historical data 
into this sequence are the proper aims of historical research. 

In the following discussion, all of those points in Meyer's analysis 
which deal particularly with the criticism of Lamprecht will, for the 
time being, be left entirely to one side, and I allow myself the liberty 
of rearranging Meyer's arguments, singling out certain of them for 
particular discussion in the following sections in accordance with the 
requirements of the following studies, which do not have as their 
goal the mere criticism of Eduard Meyer's book. 

In order to oppose the point of view which he is combatting, Meyer 
first refers to the very great role which "free will" and "chance" — 
both of which are in his view perfectly "definite and clear concepts" 
— have played in history and in life in general. 

As regards the discussion of "chance" (p. 17 ff.), Eduard Meyer 
obviously does not interpret this concept as objective "causelessness" 
("absolute" chance in the metaphysical sense), nor does he interpret 
it as the absolute subjective impossibility of knowledge of the causal 
conditions which necessarily recurs in regard to each individual in- 
stance of the class of events (as, for example, in the toss of dice) 
("absolute" chance in the epistcmological sense )."^ He understands 
by "chance," rather, "relative" chance in the sense of a logical rela- 
tionship between groups of causes conceived as distinct complexes 
and understands it, in the main, in the way, although naturally not 
always "correctly" formulated, that this concept is accepted by profes- 
sional logicians, who despite many advances in detail still base their 
theory in this regard on Windelband's earliest writing. In the main, 
he makes a correct distinction between two concepts of chance: (1) 
the causal concept of "chance" ("relative chance" so-called) : — the 
"chance" effect here stands in contrast with such an effect as would 

^ This sort of "chance" lies, for example, at the basis of the so-called games 
of "chance" such as dice and lotteries. The absolute unknowability of the 
influence of certain parts of the concrete determining conditions of the specific 
efTect on the outcome of the event is constitutive for the possibility of "prob- 
ability calculation" in the strict sense of the term. 


be "expected" from the event's causal components which we have syn- 
thesized into a conceptual unity — that is a matter of "chance" which 
is not usually derivable in accordance with general rules of change 
from those determinants which alone have been taken into account 
in the unification of causal components into causes but which has 
been caused by the operation of some conditions lying "outside" them 
(pp. 17-19). From this causal conception of "chance," he distinguishes 
(2) the rather different teleological concept of "chance," the op- 
posite of which is the "essential" reality; here either it is a question 
of the construction of a concept for heuristic purposes through the 
exclusion of those elements or components of reality which are "un- 
essential" ("chance" or "individual") for the knowledge, or it is a 
question of assessment of certain real or conceptualized objects as 
"means" to an "end," in which case, then, certain characteristics 
alone are practically relevant as "means" while the others are treated 
in practice as "indifferent" (pp. 20-21).* Of course, the formulation 
(especially on page 20 et seq., where the contrast is conceived as one 
between "events" and "things") leaves much to be desired, and it 
will become quite clear by our further discussion of Meyer's attitude 
toward the concept of development (in Section II) that the problem 
has not been fully thought out in its logical implications. However, 
what he says is adequate for the needs of historical practice. What 
interests us here, however, is the way in which at a subsequent passage 
(p. 28) he recurs to the concept of "chance." "Natural science can 
. . . assert," Meyer says, "that when dynamite is set on fire an explo- 
sion will take place. But to predict whether and when in a specific 
instance this explosion will take place, and whether in such a situation 
a particular person will be wounded, killed, or saved, that is impossible 
for natural science because that depends on chance and on the free 
will of which science knows nothing but with which history deals." 
Here we see the very close union of "chance" with "free will." It 

* These concepts of "chance" are not to be excluded from a discipline which 
is only relatively historical (for example, biology). L. M. Hartmann {Die 
geschichtliche Entwicklung, pp. 15 and 25) speaks only of this and the "prag- 
matic" concept of "chance" — obviously following Meyer; he does not, how- 
ever, in any case, in spite of his false formulation, do as Eulenburg claims, 
that is, transform "the causeless into the casual' {Deutsche Liter aturzeitung 
1905, No. 24). 


appears even more prominently when Meyer cites as a second example 
the possibility of "calculating" with "certainty" the possibility of a 
constellation by use of the devices of astronomy, meaning by "cer- 
tainty" the assumption of the non-occurrence of "disturbances" such 
as, for example, the intrusion of strange or foreign planets into the 
solar system. In contrast with this, he declares it to be impossible to 
predict with certainty that the constellation will be "observed." In 
the first place, that intrusion of the foreign planet, according to 
Meyer's assumption, would be "incalculable" — in that sense astron- 
omy, and not only history, has to take "chance" into account. Sec- 
ondly, it is normally very easily "calculable" that some astronomer 
will also attempt to "observe" the calculated constellation, and when 
no "chance" disturbances intrude, will actually succeed in observing 
it. One obtains the impression that Meyer, although interpreting 
"chance" in a thoroughly deterministic fashion, has in mind, without, 
however, clearly expressing it, a particularly close affinity between 
"chance" and "free will" which determines a characteristic irration- 
ality in historical events. Let us examine this more closely. 

What Meyer designates as "free will" does not involve, according 
to him, in any way (p. 14) a contradiction of the "axiomatic" "prin- 
ciple of sufficient reason" which is, in his view, unconditionally valid 
even for human conduct. Rather, the distinction between "freedom" 
and "necessity" in conduct is resolved into a simple distinction of 
points of view. In one case, we are contemplating what has happened, 
and this appears to us as "necessary," including the decision that was 
once actually made. In the case of freedom, however, we look on 
the event as "becoming," that is, as not yet having occurred, and 
thus as not "necessary"; it is, in this form, only one of infinitely 
numerous "possibilities." From the point of view of a development in 
process, we can, however, never assert that a human decision could 
not have been made differently than it actually was made later. In 
the discussion of human action, "we can never transcend the 'I will'." 

The question now arises: is it Meyer's view that this distinction 
between two viewpoints (i.e. (1) "development in process" which 
is for that reason conceived as "free" and (2) "events" which have 
"occurred" and for that reason conceived as "necessary'") is to be 
applied only in the sphere of human motivation and not in the sphere 


of "dead" nature? Since he remarks on page 15 that the person who 
"knows the personality and the circumstances" can predict the result, 
that is, the decision which is "evolving" "perhaps with a very high 
probability," he does not appear to accept such a distinction. But a 
really exact prediction of an individual event from given conditions 
is also dependent, in the sphere of "dead" nature, on these two pre- 
suppositions: (1) that there are involved "calculable," that is, quan- 
titatively expressible components of the event, and (2) that all of the 
conditions which are relevant for the occurrence can really be known 
and measured exactly. Otherwise, and this is always the rule wherever 
it is a question of the concrete individuality of an event, such as the 
exact character of the weather on a particular day in the future, we 
cannot transcend probability judgments of various degrees of cer- 
tainty. "Free" will, then, would not have any special status, and "I 
will" would only be the same as the formal "fiat" of consciousness 
discussed by James, which is, for example, accepted by the determin- 
ist criminologists without any damage to their theories of legal 
responsibility.^ "Free will" signifies, then, only that causal significance 
has been attributed to the "decision" which has arisen from causes 
which are, perhaps, never fully to be discovered, but which are in any 
case "sufficient"; and this will not be seriously contested even by a 
strict determinist. If there were nothing more involved in this, then 
we would be unable to see why the concept of irrationality of historical 
events, which is occasionally mentioned in discussions of "chance," 
would not be acceptable. 

But for such an interpretation of Meyer's point of view, it is 
disturbing to note that he finds it necessary in this context to empha- 
size freedom of the will, as a fact of inner experience, as indispensable 
if the individual is to be responsible for his own voluntary acts. This 
would be justified only if Meyer were intending to assign to history 
the task of judging its heroes. It is therefore a question to what extent 
Meyer actually holds this position. He remarks (p. 16) : "We at- 
tempt to uncover the motives which have led them" — for example, 
Bismarck in 1866- — "to their decisions and to judge the correctness 
of these decisions and the value {nota bene\) of their personality." 

5 See, for example, Liepmann's Einleitung in das Strafrecht. 


In view of this formulation, one may well believe that Meyer regards 
it as the highest task of history to obtain value judgmerits concerning 
the "historically acting" personality. Not only his attitude toward 
"biography," which is still to be mentioned, but also the highly perti- 
nent remarks regarding the non-equivalence of the "intrinsic value" of 
historical personalities and their causal significance (pp. 50-51) make 
it certain that by "value" of personality in the foregoing sentence he 
means only, or can consistently only mean, the causal significance of 
certain actions or certain qualities of those concrete persons which 
may be positive, or also, as in the case of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, 
negative, for some value judgment. But what is meant by the "judg- 
ment" of the "correctness" of those decisions may be understood 
again in a variety of ways: as either (1) a judgment of the "value" 
of the goal which lay at the basis of the decision — for example, the 
goal of driving Austria out of Germany from the standpoint of the 
German patriot — or as (2) an analysis of those decisions with refer- 
ence to the question whether, or, rather, since history has answered 
this question affinnativcly, — why the decision to go to war was at 
that moment the appropriate means to achieve the goal of the 
unification of Germany. We may pass over the question whether 
Meyer has, in actuality, clearly distinguished in his own mind these 
two ways of putting the question. In an argument regarding historical 
causality, obviously only the second one is relevant; for this judgment 
of the historical situation, "teleological" in form, and expressed in 
terms of the categories of "means and ends," is obviously meaningful 
in a presentation which takes the form, not of a book of instructions 
for diplomats, but of "history," as rendering possible a judgment of 
the causal historical significance of events. Such a judgment asserts 
that at that moment an "opportunity" to make a decision was not 
"passed over" because the "maker" of the decision, as Meyer says, 
possessed the "strength of soul and mind" to maintain it in the face of 
all obstacles; in this way is determined what is to be attributed caus- 
ally to that decision and its characterological and other preconditions; 
in other words, the extent to which, and the sense in which, for ex- 
ample, the presence of those "character qualities" constituted a "fac- 
tor" of historical "importance." Such problems causally relating a 
certain historical event to the actions of concrete persons are, however, 


obviously to be sharply distinguished from the question of the meaning 
and significance of ethical "responsibility." 

We may interpret this last expression in Eduard Meyer's writing 
in the purely "objective" meaning of the causal ascription of certain 
effects to the given "characterological" qualities and to the "motives" 
of the acting personalities which are to be explained by these charac- 
terological qualities and the numerous "environmental" circumstances 
and by the concrete situation. But then it becomes strikingly note- 
worthy that Meyer, in a subsequent passage in his treatise (pp. 44-45), 
indicates that the "investigation of motives" is "secondary" for his- 
tory. The reason which is alleged, namely, that inquiry' into motives 
passes beyond what is secure knowledge, that it often indeed results 
in a "genetic formulation" of an action which cannot be satisfactorily 
explained in the light of the available data and which action is, there- 
fore, to be simply accepted as a "datum," cannot, however correct 
it may be in individual instances, be adhered to as a logical criterion 
in view of the often equally problematic "explanations" of concrete 
external natural or physical events. However that may be, Meyer's 
point of view regarding inquiry into motives, in association with his 
strong emphasis on the significance of the essential factor of the 
"willed decision" for history and the quoted remark concerning 
"responsibility" leads in any case to the suspicion that as far as 
Meyer is concerned, the ethical and the causal modes of analyzing 
human action — "evaluation" and "explanation" — reveal a certain 
tendency to fuse with one another.*^ For quite apart from the question 
as to whether one regards as adequate Windelband's formulation 
that the idea of responsibility has a meaning which does not involve 
that of causality and constitutes a positive basis for the normative 
dignity of ethical consciousness, — in any case this formulation ade- 
quately indicates how the world of "norms" and "values" as en- 
visaged from the empirical, scientific, causal point of view is delimit- 
able from such a standpoint.^ 

'■ What is to be included under "investigation into motives" is not clearly stated 
here, but cjuite obviously it is understood that we regard the "decision" of a 
"concrete personality" as the absolutely "ultimate" fact only when it appears 
to us to be, in a "pragmatic" view, accidental, that is neither accessible nor 
worthy of a meaningful interpretation; thus, for example, the wild decrees of 


Naturally, in judging a certain mathematical proposition to be 
"correct," the question as to how the knowledge of it came about 
"psychologically" and whether "mathematical imagination," for in- 
stance, is possible to the highest degree only as an accompaniment of 
certain anatomical abnormalities of the "mathematical brain," does 
not arise at all. The consideration that one's own ethically judged 
"motive" is, according to the theory of empirical science, causally 
determined does not carry any weight before the forum of conscience; 
nor does the consideration that an instance of artistic bungling must 
be regarded as being as much determined in its genesis as the Sistine 
Chapel carry any weight in aesthetic judgment. Causal analysis pro- 
vides absolutely no value judgment^ and a value judgment is abso- 
lutely not a causal explanation. And for this very reason the evalua- 
tion of an event — such as, for instance, the "beauty" of a natural 
phenomenon — occurs in a sphere quite different from its causal 
explanation; for this reason concern on the part of history to judge 
of historical actions as responsible before the conscience of history 
or before the judgment seat of any god or man and all other modes 
of introducing the philosophical problem of "freedom" into the 
procedures of history would suspend its character as an empirical 
science {Erjahrungwissenschajt) just as much as the insertion of mira- 
cles into its causal sequences. Following Ranke, the latter is natur- 

Czar Paul, which were impelled by madness. However, one of the most cer- 
tain tasks of history has always consisted in understanding empirically given 
"external actions" and their results in the light of historically given "condi- 
tions," "goals," and "means" of action. Nor does Meyer himself proceed in 
any other fashion. The "investigation of motives" that is, the analysis of 
what was really "sought" and the basis of this desire — is on the one hand 
the means of avoiding the petering out of the analysis into an unhistorical 
body of pragmatic rules, while on the other it is one of the major points of 
departure of the "historical interest": we wish, indeed, among other things, 
to see "how the desires" of hiunan beings are transformed in their "significance" 
by the concatenation of historical "destinies." 

'^ Windelband, (Uber Willensfreiheit, last chapter), selects this formulation 
in particular in order to exclude the question of "freedom of the will" from 
criminological discussions. However, it is a question whether it is adequate 
for the criminologist since the type of casual interconnection is never entirely 
irrelevant for the applicability of the norms of criminal law. 

8 But we do not mean by this that the "psychological' faciliation of the 
"understanding" of the value-significance of an object (e.g., a work of art) 
does not gain something very essential from the causal analysis of its genesis. 
We shall come back to this later. 


ally rejected by Eduard Meyer (p. 20) in the name of the "sharp 
distinction between historical knowledge and religious Weltanschau- 
ung" and it would have been better, in my opinion, if he had not 
allowed himself to be misled by Stammler's arguments which he cites 
(p. 26; fn. 2) and which blur the equally sharp distinction between 
historical knowledge and ethics. Just how disastrous this mixing up of 
different standpoints can be from the methodological point of view is 
demonstrated immediately when Meyer (p. 20) claims that by means 
of the empirically given ideas of freedom and responsibility a "purely 
individual factor" is present in historical development, which is 
"never capable of being reduced to a formula" without "annihilating 
its true nature" and when he then seeks to illustrate this proposition 
by the high historical (causal) significance of the individually willed 
decision of particular personalities. This old error® is so dangerous 
precisely from the point of view of preserving the specific character 
of history because it introduces problems from quite distinct fields 
into history and produces the illusion that a certain (anti-determin- 
istic) conviction is a presupposition of the validity of the historical 
method. The error in the assumption that any freedom of the 
will — however it is understood — is identical with the "irration- 
ality" of action, or that the latter is conditioned by the former, is 
quite obvious. The characteristic of "incalculability," equally great 
but not greater than that of "blind forces of nature," is the privilege 
of — the insane.^^ On the other hand, we associate the highest 
measure of an empirical "feeling of freedom" with those actions which 
we are conscious of performing rationally — i.e., in the absence of 
physical and psychic "coercion," emotional "affects" and "accidental" 

^ I have criticized this error in detail in my essay "Roschcr und Knies und die 
logischen Probleme der historischen Nationalokonomie." 

10 The actions of Czar Paul of Russia in the last stages of his mad reign arc 
treated by us as not meaningful interpretable and therefore as "incalcul- 
able," like the storm which broke up the Spanish Armada. In the case of the 
one as well as the other we forbear from the "investigation of motives," obvi- 
ously not because we interpret these events as "free" and also not because 
their concrete causation must remain hidden from us — in the case of Czar Paul 
pathology could perhaps supply the answer — but because they arc not suffi- 
ciently interesting to us historically. We shall deal with this more closely 


disturbances of the clarity of judgment, in which wc pursue a clearly 
perceived end by "means" which are the most adequate in accordance 
with the extent of our knowledge, i.e., in accordance with empirical 
rules. If history had only to deal with such rational actions which 
are "free" in this sense, its task would be immeasurably lightened: 
the goal, the "motive," the "maxims" of the actor would be unam- 
biguously derivable from the means applied and all the irrationalities 
which constitute the "personal" element in conduct would be ex- 
cluded. Since all strictly teleologically (purposefully) occurring ac- 
tions involve applications of empirical rules, which tell what the appro- 
priate "means" to ends are, history would be nothing but the appli- 
cations of those rules.^^ The impossibility of purely pragmatic history 
is determined by the fact that the action of men is not interpretable 
in such purely rational terms, that not only irrational "prejudices," 
errors in thinking and factual errors but also "temperament," "moods" 
and "affects" disturb his freedom — in brief, that his action too — 
to very different degrees — -partakes of the empirical "meaningless- 
ness" of "natural change." Action shares this kind of "irrationality" 
with every natural event, and when the historian in the interpretation 
of historical interconnections speaks of the "irrationality" of human 
action as a disturbing factor, he is comparing historical-empirical 
action not with the phenomena of nature but with the ideal of a 
purely rational, i.e., absolutely purposeful, action which is also abso- 
lutely oriented towards the adequate means. 

Eduard Meyer's exposition of the categories of "chance" and "free 
will" which are characteristic of historical analysis, reveals a some- 
what unclear disposition to introduce heterogeneous problems into 

11 Cf. in this connection, the considerations present in "Roscher und Knies"— 
strictly rational action — one could also put it thus — would be the simple and 
complete "adaptation" to the given "situation." Menger's theoretical schemata, 
for example, presuppose the strictly rational "adaptation" to the "market situa- 
tion" and exhibit the consequences there of in "ideal-typical" purity. History 
would in fact be nothing more than a body of practical patterns (pragmatics) 
of "adaptation" — which is what L. M. Hartmann would like to make it — if it 
were solely an analysis of the emergence and interconnections of the partic- 
ular "free," i.e., teleologically absolutely rational, actions of single individuals. 
If one excludes this teleological-rational meaning from the conception of 
"adaptation," as Hartmann does, it becomes, as we shall have further occasion 
to show, an absolutely indifferent idea for historical studies. 


historical methodolgy; it is further to be observed that his conception 
of historical causality contains striking contradictions. He emphasizes 
very strongly on page 40 that historical research always seeks out 
causal sequences by proceeding from effect to cause. Even this — in 
Eduard Meyer's formulation^ -■ — can be disputed: is is from the na- 
ture of the case quite possible to formulate in the form of an hype- 
thesis the effects which could have been produced by a given historical 
event or by a newly ascertained historical occurrence and to verify 
this hypothesis by testing it with the "facts." What is really meant, as 
we shall see, is something quite different — that which has recently 
been called the principle of "teleological dependence" and which dom- 
inates history's interests in causes. Furthermore, it is of course also 
unsatisfactory when the aforementioned ascent from effect to cause is 
claimed to be peculiar to history'. The causal "explanattion" of a con- 
crete "natural event" proceeds exactly in this way and in no other. 
And while the view is put forward on page 14 — as we have seen— that 
what has already "occurred" is for us tantamount to the absolutely 
"necessary" and only what is conceived as "becoming" is to be inter- 
preted by us as mere "possibility," on page 40 he emphasizes the con- 
trary proposition, stressing the particularly problematic element in the 
inference of the cause from the effect, in such a way that Eduard 
Meyer himself feels called upon to avoid the term "cause" in historical 
studies and, as we have seen, the "investigation of motives" becomes 
discredited in his eyes. 

One could try, taking Eduard Meyer's point of view, to resolve 
this last contradiction by a formulation in which the problematic 
element in the inference from effect to cause was seen to be grounded 
in the fundamental limitations of our capacities for knowledge, while 
determinism remained an ideal postulate. But he decisively rejects 
this procedure too (p. 23) and follows it (p. 24) with a discussion 
which once more raises serious doubts. At one time Eduard Meyer 
identified, in the introduction to Die Geschichte des Altertums, the 
relation between the "general" and the "particular" with that between 
"freedom" and "necessity" and both of these with the relationship 

^'^ He says rather unfortunately: "historical research proceeds in its inferences 
from effect to cause." 


between the "individual" and the "collectivity"; in consequence of 
this (cf. above), the "individual" was dominant in "detail" (in the 
particular instance), while the "major trends" of historical events 
were governed by "law" or "rule." This view, which prevails among 
many "modern" historians and which in this formulation is entirely 
and basically confused is expressly withdrawn by him on page 25, 
partly on the authority of Rickert, partly on the authority of von 
Below. The latter had taken particularly objection to the notion of 
a "development governed by law"; against Eduard Meyer's ex- 
ample — that the development of Germany to a unified nation 
appears to us as an "historical necessity," while the time and form 
of the unification into a federal state with twenty-five members 
depends, on the contrary, on the "individuality of the historically 
operating factors," von Below complained: "Could it not have 
happened otherwise?" Meyer is unquestionably open to this criticism. 
But it appears to me to be quite easy to see — however one judges 
the Meyerian formulation which is attacked by von Below — that 
this criticism in any case proves too much and therefore proves 
nothing. For the same objection is appropriate when we, along 
with von Below and Eduard Meyer, apply the concept of "law- 
governed development" without any qualms. The fact that a human 
being has developed or will develop from a human foetus appears 
to us as a /a zi; -governed development — and still it could undoubtedly 
"have a different outcome" as a result of external "accidents" or 
"pathological" inheritance. In the polemic against the theorists of 
"development" it is obviously only a question of correctly perceiving 
and logically delimiting the meaning of the concept of "develop- 
ment" — the concept obviously can not simply be eliminated by such 
arguments as the foregoing. Eduard Meyer himself is the best instance 
of this contention. For it is the case that only two pages later (p. 27) 
he again proceeds in a footnote which designates the concept of 
"middle ages" as "a clearly defined concept," in accordance with a 
schema set forth in the "Introduction" which he had repudiated: and 
in the text, he says that the word "necessity" in history signifies only 
that the "probability" of an historical consequence following from 
given conditions, attains a very high level, that the whole development 
so to speak, presses on to a single outcome. He did not wish, more- 


ever, to say more than that by his remark about the unification of 
Germany. And when he emphasizes in this connection that there 
was, despite everything, a possibility of the event's non-occurrence, 
we wish to recall that he had stressed in connection with astronomical 
calculations that they could possibly be "disturbed" by wandering 
heavenly bodies. There is indeed in this respect no distinction from 
particular natural events, and even in explanations in the sphere of 
nature,-"^*^ whenever it is a question of concrete events, the judgment of 
necessity is by no means the only or even merely the major form in 
which the category of causality can appear. One will not go wrong 
with the hypothesis that Eduard Meyer arrived at his distrust of the 
concept of "development" through his discussions with J. VVellhausen 
in which it was essentially (but not only) a matter of the following 
contrast: whether to interpret the "development" of Judaism as one 
which had occurred essentially "from the inside outwards" ("evolu- 
tionalistically") or as one that had been conditioned by certain con- 
crete historical forces entering from the "outside," in particular, the 
imposition of "laws" by the Persian kings out of considerations deriv- 
ing from Persian politics and which are not related to the intrinsic 
characteristics of the Jews ("epigenetically"). However that may be, 
it is in no case no improvement on the formulation used in the Intro- 
duction when (p. 46) "the general" appears as "the essentially (?) 
negative," or more sharply formulated, the "limiting" "condition" 
which set the "boundaries," within which the infinite possibilities of 
historical development lie, while the question as to which of these 
possibilities becomes a "reality"^* depends on the "higher (?) indi- 
vidual factors of historical life." Thereby, the "general" {das "Allge- 
meine") — i.e., not the "general milieu" which is wrongly confused 
with the "general" ("generellcn") but rather the rule which is an 
abstract concept — is hypostasized into an effective force operating 

^3 It would lead too far afield to examine this problem here in more detail. 
Cf. my "Roscher und Knics." 

1* This formulation recalls certain modes of thought which were common in 
the Russian sociological school (Mikhailowski Karcyev, ct al.), which are re- 
viewed in Kistiakowski's essay in the "Problems of Idealism" (edited by 
Novgorodzev, Moscow, 1902) concerning the "Russian sociological school" 
and the category of possibility in the problems of the social sciences. We 
shall return to this essay later. 


behind the historical scene, and this ignores the elementary fact — 
which Eduard Meyer stresses clearly and sharply at other places 

— that reality is constituted only by the concrete and particular. 
This dubious formulation of the relations between the "general" 

and the "particular" is by no means peculiar to Eduard Meyer and 
it is by no means confined to historians of his stamp. On the contrary, 
it lies at the basis of the popular conception which is nonetheless 
shared, by many "modern" historians — but not by Eduard Meyer 

— which maintains that in order to establish the study of history 
in a rational manner as a "science of the individual," it is necessary 
to establish the similarities and identities of patterns of human devel- 
opment, in which case the particularities and the incomparable and 
unanalyzable elements remain as a residue, or as Breysig once said, 
"the finest flowers." This conception which comes closer to actual 
historical practice represents an advance as contrasted with the naive 
belief in the vocation of history to become a "systematic science." 
But it, too, is very naive in its own way. The attempt to understand 
"Bismarck" in his historical significance by leaving out of account 
everything which he has in common with other men and keeping 
what is "particular" to him would be an instructive and amusing 
exercise for beginners. One would in that case — assuming naturally, 
as one always does in logical discussions, the ideal completeness of 
the materials — preserve, for example, as one of those "finest flowers" 
his "thumbprint," that most specific indication of "individuality" 
which has been discovered by the criminal police and the loss of 
which for history would be irreplaceable. And if to this argument it 
were indignantly countered that "naturally" only "spiritual" (geistigc) 
or "psychological" qualities and events can be taken into considera- 
tion as "historical," his daily life, were we to know it "exhaustively," 
would ofTer us an infinity of expressive traits which would never be 
found in this blend and pattern in any other person in the world, and 
which would not exceed his thumbprints in their interest. If it is 
further objected that quite "obviously," as far as science is con- 
cerned, only the historically "significant" constituents of Bismarck's 
life are to be considered, the logical answer would be: that that very 
"obviousness" involves the decisive problem since it raises the question 
as to what is the logical criterion of the historically "significant" 


constituent parts. 

This exercise in subtraction of the common from the unique — 
assuming the absolute completeness of the data — would never be 
brought to an end even in the most remote future, and there would 
still remain, after subtraction of an infinity of "common qualities," 
a further infinity of constituent parts; even aften an eternity of the 
most energetic subtraction from this latter infinity of particular parts, 
not a single further step would have been taken to answer the ques- 
tion as to what is historically "essential" among these particularities. 
This \vould be the sole insight which would emerge from an attempt 
to perform this exercise. The other insight is that this operation of 
subtraction presupposes such a perfect grasp of the causal course 
of events, as" no science could aspire to even as an ideal goal. As a 
matter of fact, every "comparison" in the historical sphere presup- 
poses that a selection has already been made through reference to 
cultural "significances" and that this selection positively determines 
the goal and direction of the attribution of causal agency while it 
excludes a rich infinity of "general" as well as "particular" elements 
in the data. The comparison of "analogous" events is to be consid- 
ered as a means of this imputation of causal agency, and indeed, in my 
view, one of the most important means and one which is not used to 
anywhere near the proper extent. We shall deal later with its logical 

Eduard Meyer does not share, as his remark on page 48 which 
is still to be discussed shows, the erroneous view that the particular 
as such is the subject matter of history' and his comments on the sig- 
nificance of the general in history to the effect that "rules" and con- 
cepts are only "means" and "presuppositions" of historical work 
(p. 29 middle) is as we shall sec logically right in the main. It is 
only his formulation which we have criticized above that is doubtful 
and it reveals the same tendency as the error which we have just 

Now in spite of all these criticisms the professional historian will 
retain the impression that the usual kernel of "truth" is contained 
in the views which are here criticized. That this is the case goes 
without saying for an historian of such distinction who discusses his 
own procedure. Indeed, he has come quite close many times to the 


logically correct formulation of the elements of truth which are 
contained in his arguments. For instance, on page 27, top, where it 
is said of "developmental stages" that they are "concepts" which can 
serve as guiding threads for the discovery and ordering of facts, and 
particularly in the numerous passages where he employs the category 
of "possibility." It is here however that the logical problem really 
begins; we must discuss the question of how the ordering of historical 
events occurs by means of the concept of development, and what is 
the logical meaning of the "category of possibility" and the way in 
which it is applied in the elaboration of historical interconnections. 
Since Eduard Meyer failed to confront these issues he was able to 
"feel" what is correct in regard to the role which the "laws" govern- 
ing events play in historical research, but he was not able — as it 
seems to me — to give it an adequate formulation. This task will 
be undertaken in a special section of these studies (II). Here we 
shall concern ourselves, after these necessarily essentially negative re- 
marks against Eduard Meyer's methodological formulation, first with 
the treatment of discussions of the problem of what is the "object" 
of history, which is dealt with in the second (pp. 34-44) and third 
(pp. 54-56) parts of his essay — a question on which the considera- 
tions just presented have indeed already touched on. 

We, too, may along with Eduard Meyer also formulate the ques- 
tion as follows: "Which of the events on which we have information 
are 'historical'?" He answers it at first in quite general form: "that is 
historical which has consequences and which has occurred." This 
means that the "historical" is that which is causally important in a 
concrete individual situation. We disregard all other questions which 
are relevant here in order to point out that Eduard Meyer on page 37 
gives up this conception which he has just formulated on page 36. 

It is clear to him that — as he says — "even if we were to confine 
ourselves to that which produces effects," "the number of particular 
events would still remain infinite." He rightly asks: what governs 
"the selection which every historian makes among them?" And he 
answers, "historical interest." He adds, however, after some consid- 
erations with which we shall deal later, that there are no absolute 
norms of historical interest and he elucidates this thesis in such a way 
that, as we previously mentioned, he once more renounces his re- 


striction of the "historical" to the "effective." On Rickert's illustrative 
remark "that . . . Friedrich Wilhelm IV turned down the German 
crown is an 'historical' event but it is entirely indifferent which tailor 
made his coats" he comments: "the tailor in question might of course 
always remain indifferent for political history but wc can easily imag- 
ine taking an historical interest in him in connection for instance 
with the history of fashions or of the tailoring industry or of prices, 
etc." This is certainly to the point — although Eduard Meyer can 
scarcely overlook on further reflection that the "interest" which we 
take in these different cases involves quite considerable differences 
in logical structure and that the failure to bear these differences in 
mind leads to the danger of confusing two fundamentally different 
but often identified categories: the ratio essendi and the ratio cog- 
noscendi. Since the case of the tailor is not entirely unambiguous, 
let us make the distinction in question clear with an illustration which 
exhibits this confusion in a more explicit fashion. 

K. Breysig in his essay on "Die Entstehung dcs Staats . . . bei 
Tlinkit und Iroskesen"-*^^ attempts to show that certain events which 
occur among these tribes, which he interprets as the "origin of the 
state from the kinship constitution" ( "Geschlechterverf assung" ) are 
"important as representative of a species"; i.e., in other words, they 
represent the "typical" form of the formation of the state — and pos- 
sess on that account "validity ... of almost universal significance." 

Now the situation obviously — on the assumption of the correct- 
ness of Breysig's factual assertions — is are follows : the fact of 
the emergence of these Indian "states" and the way in which it 
occurred remains of extraordinarily slight significance for the causal 
nexus of the development of world history. No single "important" 
fact of the later political or cultural development [Gestaltung) of 
the world is influenced by it, i.e., can be related to it as a cause. For 
the formation of the political and cultural situation in the contempor- 
ary United States, the mode of origin of those Indian states and prob- 
ably their very existence as well is "indifferent"; i.e., there is no 

^^ Schmollers Jahrbuch 1904, pp. 483 ff. Naturally I do not enter here in 
any way into the question of the substantive value of the work; on the con- 
trary, the correctness of all of Breysig's assertions will be assumed in this as in 
all the illustrations which I cite. 


demonstrable causal connection between the two while the after- 
effects of certain decisions of Themistocles are still visible today — 
however disappointingly this may block the attempt to construct an 
imposing unified scheme of "evolutionary historical development." On 
the other hand — if Breysig is right— the significance of the propositions 
produced by his analyses concerning the process of the formation of 
those states would, in his opinion, be epoch-making for our knowledge 
of the way in which states arise in general. If Breysig's view of the 
course of development as "typical" were correct and if it constituted 
a new addition to knowledge — we would then be in a position to 
formulate certain concepts which quite apart from their value for 
the conceptualization of the theory of the state, could at least be 
applied as heuristic devices in the causal interpretation of other his- 
torical developments. In other words, as a real historical factor, that 
specific development is of no significance, but as supplying a possible 
"principle of knowledge" his analysis is uncommonly significant 
(according to Breysig) . On the other hand, to have knowledge of 
Themistocles' decisions, for example, signifies nothing for "psychology" 
or any other conceptualizing science; the fact that statesman "could" 
in the situation in question decide in that manner is intelligible to 
us without the aid of a "science constituted by laws" and our under- 
standing of that fact is indeed the presupposition of our knowledge 
of the concrete causal nexus but it implies no enrichment of our gen- 
eralized knowledge. 

Let us take an example from the sphere of "nature": those par- 
ticular X-rays which Roentgen saw flashing from his screen have left 
certain concrete eflfects which according to the law of the conservation 
of energy must still be acting somewhere in the cosmic system. But 
the "significance" of those particular rays in Roentgen's laboratory 
does not lie in their character as cosmic real causes. What happened 
in Roentgen's laboratory, just like every experiment, has importance 
only as the ground for inferring certain "laws" of the occurrence of 
events. -"^^ 

16 This does not mean that these particular Roentgen rays could not figure as 
"historical" events: in a history of physics. The latter could concern itself 
among other things with the "accidental" circumstances which brought about 
the complex of factors in Roentgen's laboratory on those particular days, which 


This is, of course, exactly how the situation stands in those cases 
which Eduard Meyer cites in a footnote to the passages which we 
are criticizing here (p. 37, fn. 2). He recalls there that "the most 
indifferent person whom we come to know by chance (in inscriptions 
or documents) acquires historical interest because we can come to 
know the circumstances of the past through them." And the same 
confusion occurs when — if my memory does not fail me — Breysig 
(in a passage which I cannot locate at the moment) believes that he 
can completely destroy the argument that the selection of subject 
matter in historical research is oriented towards the "significant," the 
individually "important," by reference to the fact, that research has 
achieved many of its most important results from the use of "clay 
fragments" and the like. Similar arguments are very popular 
today and their affinity with Friedrich Wilhelm IV's "coat" and the 
"insignificant persons" in Eduard Meyer's inscriptions is quite appar- 
ent — as is that confusion which is once again under discussion here. 
For as we have said, Breysig's "fragments of clay" and Eduard Meyer's 
"insignificant persons" are not — any more than the particular X-rays 
in Roentgen's laboratory — integrated as causal links in the historical 
sequence; rather, certain of their characteristic properties are means 
of ascertaining certain historical facts which facts in their turn 
become important for "the elaboration of concepts", i.e., they can 

occasioned the radiation and which thereby led causally to the discovery of 
the "law" in question. It is clear that the logical status of those rays would, 
in this context, be completely changed. This is possible because these events 
play a role here which is rooted in values ("the progress of science"). It 
might perhaps be asserted that this logical distinction is only a result of hav- 
ing moved into the area of the subject matter of the "Geisteswissenschaften," 
that the cosmic effects of those particular rays have therefore been left out of 
consideration. It is, however, irrelevant whether the particular "evaluated" 
object for which these rays were causally "significant" is "physical" or "psy- 
chic" in nature, provided only that it "means" something for us, i.e., that 
it is "evaluated." Once we assume the factual possibility of knowledge 
directed towards that object, the particular cosmic (physical, chemical, etc.) 
effects of those particular rays could (theoretically) become "historical facts" — 
but only if — lines of causation led from them to some particular result which 
was an "historical individual," i.e., was "evaluated" by us as universally signifi- 
cant in its particular individual character (individueUen Eigenart) . Such an 
attempt would be meaningless merely on the ground that such a relationship 
of the rays to a universally significant object is in no way discernible even if 
the causal lines could actually be established. 


themselves become heuristic instruments for the estabUshment of the 
generic "character" of certain artistic "epochs" or for the causal 
interpretation of concrete historical interconnections. This division 
of the logical use of the data given by cultural reality^''' into ( 1 ) con- 
ceptuaization with the illustrative use of "particular facts" as "typi- 
cal" instances of an abstract "concept," i.e., as an heuristic instrument 
on the one hand — and (2) integration of the "particular fact" as 
a link, i.e., as a real causal factor into a real, hence concrete context 
with the use among other things of the products of conceptualization 
on the one hand as excmplificatory and on the other as heuristic de- 
vices — entails the distinction between what Rickert called the "natu- 
ral-scientific" and Windelband the "nomothetic" procedure (ad 1) 
and the logical goal of the "historical cultural sciences" (ad 2). It 
also implies the only justified sense in which history can be called a 
science of reality (Wirklichkeitswissenschaft) . For the meaning of 
history as a science of reality can only be that it treats particular ele- 
ments of reality not merely as heuristic instruments but as the objects 
of knowledge, and particular causal connections not as premises of 
knowledge but as real causal factors. We shall, moreover, see how 
inaccurate is the naive popular view that history is the "mere" de- 
scription of a pre-existent reality or the simple reproduction of 

Rickert's "tailor" whom Eduard Meyer criticizes is in the same 
position as the clay fragments and the "insignificant persons" of the 
inscriptions. The fact that a certain tailor delivered a certain coat 
to the king is prima facie of quite inconsequential causal significance, 
even for the cu\tura\-historical causal interconnection of the develop- 
ment of "fashion" and the "tailoring industry." It would cease to be 
so only when as a result of this particular delivery historical effects 

^'''Here the author wrote on the margin of the proofs: A step in reasoning has 
been missed here. Add: that a fact where it is considered as an instance of 
a class-concept (GattungsbegrifT) is a heuristic instrument {Erkenntnis mitt el) . 
But not every heuristic instrument is a class concept. 

1^ The term "science of reality" in the sense in which it is used here is per- 
fectly adequate for the essential nature of history. The misunderstanding 
which contains the popular interpretation of this term as referring to a 
simple presuppositionless "description" has been dealt with adequately by 
Rickert and Simmel. 


were produced, e.g., if the personality of this tailor, or the fortunes 
of his enterprise were causally "significant" from some standpoint for 
the transformation of fashion or industrial organization and if this 
historical role had been causally affected by the delivery of that very 

As an heuristic device for the ascertainment of fashion, etc., on 
the other hand, the style of Friedrich Wilhelm IV's coats and the 
fact that they came from certain (e.g., Berlin) workshops can cer- 
tainly achieve as much "significance" as anything else which is acces- 
sible to us as material for the discovery of the fashion of that period. 
The coats of the king are, in this case, to be considered as instances 
of a c/fl^5-concept, which is being elaborated as an heuristic instru- 
ment — the rejection of the Kaiser's crown, on the other hand, with 
which they are compared, is to be viewed as a concrete link in an 
historical situation as real effect and cause in a specific real series 
of changes. These are absolutely fundamental logical distinctions 
and they will always remain so. And however much these two 
absolutely distinct standpoints become intertwined in the practice of 
the student of culture — this always happens and is the source of the 
most interesting methodological problems — no one will ever succeed 
in understanding the logical character of history if he is unable to 
make this distinction in a clearcut manner. 

Eduard Meyer has however presented two mutually incompatible 
viewpoints regarding the mutual relationship of these two logically 
distinct categories of "historical reality." On the one hand he con- 
fuses, as we have seen, the "historical interest" in the historically 
"effective," i.e., the real causal links in historical interconnections 
(rejection of the Kaiser's crown) with those facts (Friedrich Wil- 
helm IV's coat, the inscriptions) which can become important for 
the historian as heuristic instruments. On the other hand, however — 
and now we shall speak of this — the distinction of the "historically 
effective" from all other objects of our actual or possible knowledge 
is so sharpened that he makes assertions about the limits of the scien- 
tific "interest" of the historian, the realization of which to almost 
any degree in his own great work would necessarily be deeply re- 
gretted by its admirers. He says (p. 48), "I have long believed that 
in the selection which the historian must make, what is characteristic 


(i.e., what is characteristically singular and which distinguishes an 
institution or an individuality from all other analogous and similar 
ones) is decisive. This is undeniably the case but it is of concern 
for history only insofar as we are able to grasp the individuality of 
a culture by its characteristic features. Thus the historian's selectiv- 
ity is historically always only a means which renders the culture's 
historical effectiveness . . . conceivable to us." This is, as all the 
previous considerations show, entirely correct, as are the conclusions 
drawn therefrom: that the popular formulation of the question of 
the "significance" of the particular and of personalities for history is 
poorly put, that the "personality" "enters into" history, by no means 
in its totality but only in its causal relevance for the historical situa- 
tion as this latter is established by the science of history, that the 
historical significance of a particular personality as a causal factor 
and the general "human" significance of the same personality in the 
light of its "intrinsic value" have nothing to do with one another, and 
that the very "inadequacies" of a personality in a decisive position 
can be causally significant. This is all perfectly right. And yet the 
question still remains whether — or let us rather say at once — in 
which sense is it right to assert that the analysis of the content of 
culture — from the historical viewpoint - — can aim only to make the 
cultural events under consideration intelligible in their eflfectiveness. 
The logical importance of this question is disclosed as soon as we 
consider the conclusions which Eduard Meyer draws from his thesis. 
At first (p. 48) he concludes that "existing circumstances in them- 
selves are never the object of history but rather become such when 
they become historically efTective." A work of art, a literary product, 
an institution of constitutional law, mores, etc., cannot possibly be 
analyzed in "all their aspects" in an historical work (including art 
and literary history) ; nor is it appropriate — since in doing this, ele- 
ments must be considered which do "not achieve historical effective- 
ness"; while on the other hand the historian must include in his 
work "details which are of quite subordinate status in a system" (e.g., 
of constitutional law) because of their causal significance. He con- 
cludes further from the aforementioned principle of historical selec- 
tion that biography is a "literary" and not an historical discipline. 
Why? Its object is the particular given personality in its total intrin- 


sic nature and not as an historically effective factor — that it was 
historically effective is here merely the presupposition, the reason for 
its having a biography devoted to it. As long as the biography is 
only a biography and not the history of the age of its hero, it cannot 
fulfill the task of history: the presentation of an historial event. To 
this assertion, one responds with the question: Why is this special 
status accorded to "personalities"? Do "events" like the Battle of 
Marathon or the Persian Wars in general "belong" in their "totality" 
in an historical narration, described in all their specimina fortitudinis 
in the style of the Homeric recital? Obviously even in the case of 
the instances just mentioned only those events and conditions belong 
in an historical narration which are decisive for historical causal 
connections. This has been so in principle, at least, ever since heroic 
myths and history began to follow divergent paths. And now what 
is the case with regard to "biography"? It is, whatever one may 
say, obviously false ( or a rhetorical hyperbole) to assert that "all 
the details ... of the external and inner life of its hero" belong in 
a biography, however much the Goethe-research which Eduard 
Meyer has in mind seeks to give that impression. It is simply a 
question here of collections of materials which aim to include every- 
thing which can possibly acquire significance for Goethe's life-history, 
be it as a direct link in a causal series — i.e., as an historically rele- 
vant fact — or be it as a means of establishing historically relevant 
facts, i.e., as a "source material." In a Goethe biography which meets 
high scholarship standards, however, only those facts which are sig- 
nificant obviously belong as elements in the presentation. 

Here we of course come up against an ambiguity in the meaning 
of this word ("significant") which requires logical analysis and which 
analysis, as we shall see, can disclose the "correct kernel" of Eduard 
Meyer's views as well as the defect in the formulation of his theory 
of the historically "effective" as the object of history. 

In order to see the various logical standpoints from which the 
"facts" of cultural life may be scientifically considered, let us take an 
example: Goethe's letters to Frau von Stein. It is not — let us clear 
this up in advance — the perceivable "fact" before us, i.e., the writ- 
ten paper, which is treated as "historical." This paper is rather only 
the means of knowing the other fact, namely, that Goethe had the 


sentiments expressed there, wrote them down and sent them to 
Frau von Stein, and received answers from her, the approximate 
meaning of which can be inferred from the correctly interpreted 
"content" of Goethe's letters. This "fact" which is disclosed by an 
"interpretation" of the "meaning" of the letters — undertaken ulti- 
mately by "scientific" procedures — is in truth what we have in mind 
when we refer to these "letters." This fact may (1) be integrated 
directly as such in an historical causal context: for example, the 
ascetic restraint of those years which was bound up with a passion 
of unheard of force obviously left profound traces in Goethe's devel- 
opment which were not extinguished even when he was transformed 
under the Southern skies. To investigate these effects in Goethe's 
"personality," to trace their influence in his creative work, and to 
"interpret" them causally by showing their connection with the events 
of those years to the extent that this is possible, are among the least 
questionable tasks of literary history. The facts of which those let- 
ters are evidence are "historical" facts, i.e., as we have seen, are real 
links in a causal chain. Now let us assume — we do not raise here 
the question as to the probability of this or any other assumptions 
that we may make henceforward — that it may be positively demon- 
strated in some way that those experiences had no influence whatso- 
ever on Goethe's personal and literar)' development; that is, that 
absolutely none of his traits or productions which "interest" us were 
influenced by them. In that case, despite their causal ineffectiveness, 
these experiences could (2) gain our interest as heuristic means; they 
could present something "characteristic" — as it is usually said — of 
Goethe's historical uniqueness. This means, however, that we could 
perhaps — whether we could really do it is not at issue — derive 
from them insights into a type of conduct and outlook on life which 
were peculiar to him throughout his life or for a substantial period 
and which influenced markedly his literary expressions and personal 
traits which interest us historically. The "historical" fact which 
would then be integrated as a real link in the causal nexus of his 
"life" would be that "outlook on life" — a conceptual complex of 
grouped qualities constituted by the inherited personal qualities 
of Goethe and those which were acquired through education, milieu 
and in the fortunes of his life and (perhaps) by the deliberately ac- 


quired "maxims" according to which he Hved and which played a 
part in the determination of his conduct and his creations. The ex- 
periences with Frau von Stein would indeed in this case — since 
that "outlook on life" is a collective concept {bcgriffliches Kollek- 
tivum) which is "expressed" in particular events — be real components 
of an "historical" fact. But they obviously would not come up for 
our consideration — under the assumptions made above — essentially as 
such, but rather as "symptoms" of that outlook on life, i.e., as heuristic 
means. Their logical relationship to the object which is to be known 
has therewith undergone a shift. 

Let us now further assume that this, too, is not the case. Those 
experiences contain nothing which \vould in any respect be character- 
istic of Goethe in contrast with other contemporaries; instead they 
correspond completely to something which is thoroughly "typical" of 
the pattern of life of certain German social circles of that period. 
In that case they would not tell us anything new for our historical 
knowledge of Goethe, but they could under certain circumstances 
probably (3) attract our interest as a conveniently usable paradiom 
of that type, as, in other words, a means of knowing the "characteris- 
tic" features of the mental and spiritual attitudes of those circles. 
The particular features of the attitudes which are "typical" — on the 
basis of our assumptions — of that group in the past and that pattern 
of life which was its expression, would, in its contrast with the pat- 
tern of life of other epochs, nations, and social strata, be the "histor- 
ical" fact to be integrated into a cultural-historical causal context as 
real cause and effect; it would then have to be causally "interpreted" 
with respect to its difference from the Italian cicishea and the like in 
the light of a "history of German morals and manners" or to the extent 
that such national divergences are considered non-existent, in the light 
of a general history of the morals and manners of that age. 

Let us now suppose further that the content of these letters is not 
useful even for this purpose, and that on the contrary it is shown that 
phenomena which are in certain "essential" respects of the same sort 
regularly occur under certain cultural conditions — in other words, 
that in these respects those experiences (of Goethe) reveal no peculiar 
features of German or Ottocento culture but rather certain features 
common to all cultures under certain conditions which are capable 


of being formulated in precise concepts. In this event then it would 
(4) be the task of a "cultural psychology" or a "social psychology," 
for instance, to determine by analysis, isolating abstraction and gen- 
eralization, the conditions under which these common components 
emerge, to "interpret" the basis of the regular sequence and to express 
the "rule" so achieved as a genetic c/ai^-concept {Gattungsbe griff) . 
These thoroughly general (Gattungsmdssige) components of Goethe's 
experiences which are highly irrelevant as regards his particular and 
unique features would, then, be of interest simply as means of attain- 
ing this class-concept {Gattunsbe griff) . 

And finally, (5) it must be regarded a priori as possible that those 
"experiences" contain nothing at all which is characteristic of any 
stratum of the population or any cultural epoch. But even in the 
absence of all occasion for a "cultural-scientific" {Kulturwissenschaft- 
licher") interest, it is conceivable — whether it is actually so is once 
again indifferent here — that a psychiatrist interested in the psychol- 
ogy of love-relationships might view them from a variety of "useful" 
viewpoints, as an "ideal-typical" illustration of certain ascetic "dis- 
turbances," just as Rousseau's Confessions, for example, are of interest 
to the specialist in nervous diseases. Naturally, the possibility here 
must be taken into account — that the letters are to be considered 
as serving all these various scientific purposes — of course, the variety 
does not entirely exhaust the logical possibilities — through the various 
components of their content, as well as serving various purposes 
through the same components. •'^^ 

Upon reviewing the foregoing analysis in reverse order, we see that 
these letters to Frau von Stein, i.e., the content which can be derived 
from them with regard to Goethe's utterances and experience, acquire 
"meaning" in the following ways: (a) in the last two cases (4, 5) as 
instances of a class, and hence as heuristic means (Erkenntnismittel) 
to the disclosure of their general nature (No. 4, 5) ; (b) as "charac- 
teristic" components of a composite phenomenon (Kollektivum) and 
on that account as a heuristic means to the disclosure of its particular 

^9 This will obviously not prove, for instance, that logic is wrong in rigorously 
distinguishing these various standpoints which can be found within one and 
the same scientific presentation. Yet this is the assumption of many wrong- 
headed objections to Rickert's views. 


{individuellen) features (No. 2, 3) ;"° (c) as a causal component of 
an historical nexus {Xusammenhang) (No. 1). In the cases listed 
under (a) (No. 4 and 5), "significance" for history exists only insofar 
as the class concept {Gattungsbe griff) , constructed with the aid of 
these particular instances, can become important under certain con- 
ditions — to be dealt with later — in checking an historical demon- 
stration. On the other hand, when Eduard Meyer confines the 
range of the "historical" to the "effective" — i.e., to No. 1 (c) of 
the foregoing list — it cannot possibly mean that the consideration of 
the second category of cases of "significance" under (b) lies outside 
the purview of history, that, in other words, facts which are not them- 
selves components of historical causal sequences but which only serve 
to disclose the facts which are to be integrated into such causal se- 
quences, e.g., such components of Goethe's correspondence which 
"illustrate" for instance those "particular features" of Goethe which 
are decisive for his literary production or which "illustrate" those 
aspects of the culture of the society of the Ottocento which are essen- 
tial for the development of morals and manners. In other words, it 
cannot possibly mean that these facts which serve to produce the kind 
of knowledge just referred to should be once and for all disregarded 
by history — if not (as in No. 2) by the "history" of Goethe, then by 
a "history of manners" of the 18th century (No. 3). Meyer's own 
work must be carried on continuously with such heuristic means. 
What is meant here can only be that, in any such work, the "com- 
ponents of an historical nexus" (Tusammenhang) are a different 
thing from an "heuristic means." But neither "biography" nor "class- 
ical studies" uses such "characteristic" details as the aforementioned 
components of Goethe's correspondence in any way contrary to this 
distinction. It is obvious that this is not the stumbling block for 
Eduard Meyer. 

"0 The discussion of these special cases will concern us more closely in a sub- 
sequent section. For this reason we deliberately leave untouched here the 
question as to the extent to which it is to be viewed as something logically 
unique. We wish to state here, only because of its greater certainty, that it 
naturally does not in any way obscure the logical distinction between the his- 
torical and nomothetic uses of "facts," since in any case, the cojirrete fact is 
not being used here "historically" in the sense adhered to in this discussion, 
namely as a link in a concrete causal series. 


Now, however, a type of "significance" greater than all of those 
already analyzed comes before us. Those experiences of Goethe — to 
adhere to our example — are "significant" for us not only as "cause" 
or as "heuristic means" but — quite apart from whether we obtain 
from them some new and hitherto completely unkown knowledge of 
Goethe's outlook on life, the culture of the 18th century, or the "typ- 
ical" course of cultural events, etc., and quite apart from whether 
they have had any sort of causal influence on his development — the 
uniquely characteristic content of these letters is also an object of 
valuation {Bewertung) for us — just as it is and without and strained 
search for any "meanings" which lie outside it and which are not 
contained in it. The letters would be such an object of valuation 
even ir nothing else at all was known of their author. Now what pri- 
marily interests us here involves two points: first, the fact that this 
"valuation" is connected with the incomparable, the unique, the irre- 
placeable literary element in the object and — this is the second point 
— that this valuation of the object in its characteristic uniqueness 
{ijidividuellen Eigenart) supplies the reason why the object becomes 
an object of reflection and of — at this point we will deliberately avoid 
saying "scientific" — intellectual treatment, that is, it becomes an 
object of interpretation. This "interpretation""-^ can take two paths 
which in actual practice almost always merge but which are, however, 
to be sharply distinguished from one another logically. Interpreta- 
tion can and does become first "value-interpretation" {Wertinterpre- 
tation), i.e., it teaches us to "understand" the intellectual, psycholog- 
ical and spiritual {geistigen) content of that correspondence; it de- 
velops and raises to the level of explicit "evaluation" that which we 
"feel" dimly and vaguely. For this purpose, interpretation is not at 
all required to enunciate or to "suggest" a value judgment. What it 
actually "suggests" in the course of analysis are rather various pos- 
sible relationships of the object to values {Wertheziehungen des Ob- 
jektes). The "attitude" which the evaluated object calls forth in us 
need not be a positive one : thus in the case of Goethe's relations with 
Frau von Stein, the usual modern sexual philistine, for example, just 

21 Here the German word Interpretation is used — and is equated by Weber 
with Deutung which is the term he usually employs in the text and which is 
<»lw>vs translated here by "interpretation." (E.A.S.) 


as well as, let us say, a Catholic moralist, would take an essentially 
negative attitude, if at all an "understanding" one. Or when we suc- 
cessively consider Karl Marx's Kapital, or Faust, or the ceiling of the 
Sistine chapel or Rousseau's Conjessions, or the experiences of St. 
Theresa, or Mme. Roland or Tolstoi, or Rabelais, or Marie Bash- 
kirtseff, or the Sermon on the Mount as objects of interpretation, 
there confronts us an infinite multiplicity of "evaluative" attitudes. 
The "interpretation" of these very different objects shares — if the 
interpretation is thought to be worthwhile and is undertaken, which 
we assume here for our purposes — only the formal feature that the 
meaning of interpretation consists in disclosing to us the possible "eval- 
uative standpoints" and "evaluative approaches," Interpretation 
imposes a certain valuation as the only "scientific" one only where, 
as in the case of the intellectual content of Karl Marx's Kapital, for 
instance, norms (in that case, of thought) come into account. But 
here, too, the objectively valid "valuation" of the object (in this case, 
the logical "correctness" of the Marxian forms of thought) are not 
necessarily involved in the purpose of an "interpretation." And such 
an imposition of a valuation would be, where it is a question not of 
"norms" but of "cultural values," a task completely transcending the 
domain of "interpretation." One can, without any logical or substan- 
tive contradiction — that is all that is involved here — reject as inher- 
ently without validity all the products of the poetic and artistic culture 
of antiquity or the religious attitude of the Sermon on the Mount just 
as well as that mixture — contained in our example of the letters to 
Frau von Stein — of glowing passion on the one side, asceticism on 
the other with all those flowers of emotional life which are so superla- 
tively fine from our standpoint. That negative "interpretation" would 
not, however, be at all "valueless" for the person making it for such 
an interpretation can despite its negative character, indeed even be- 
cause of it, provide "knowledge" for him in the sense that it, as we 
say, extends his "inner life," and his "mental and spiritual {geistigen) 
horizon," and makes him capable of comprehending and thinking 
through the possibilities and nuances of life-patterns as such and to 
develop his own self intellectually, aesthetically, and ethically (in the 
widest sense) in a differentiated way — or in other words, to make 
his "psyche," so to speak, more "sensitive to values." The "interpre- 


tation" of intellectual and mental {geistigcn) , aesthetic or ethical crea- 
tions has in this respect the cfTccts of the latter, and the assertion that 
"history" in a certain sense is an "art" has in this respect its jutifiablc 
"kernel of truth," no less than the designation of the cultural and 
humanistic sciences {"Gcistcswissenschaften") as "subjectivizing." In 
this function of interpretation, however, we reach the outermost edge 
of what can still be called the "elaboration of the empirical by 
thought"; there is here no longer a concern with "historical work" in 
the proper and distinctive sense of the word. 

It is probably clear that by what he called the "philosophical con- 
sideration of the past," Eduard Meyer meant this type of interpreta- 
tion which has its point of departure in what are in essence atemporal 
relations of "historical" objects, i.e., their axiological validity {Wert- 
geltung) and which teaches us to "understand" them. This is indi- 
cated by his definition of this type of scientific activity (p. 55) which 
according to him, "places the products of history in the present and 
hence deals with them as finished" treating the object, "not as becom- 
ing and having historical efTects but as being," and therefore in con- 
trast with "history," treating it in "all its aspects" ; it aims, according 
to Eduard Meyer, at an "exhaustive interpretation of particular crea- 
tions," primarily in the fields of literature and art, but also as he 
expressly adds, of political and religious institutions, manners and 
attitudes, and "ultimately of the entire culture of an epoch treated 
as a unity." Naturally, this type of "interpretation" has nothing 
"philological" about it in the sense appropriate to the specialized 
linguistic disciplines. The interpretation of the textual-linguistic 
"meaning" of a literary object and the interpretation of "mental, 
intellectual and spiritual (geistigen) content," its "meaning" in this 
value-oriented sense of the word may in fact proceed hand in hand, 
ever so frequently and with good reason. They are nonetheless logic- 
ally fundamentally difTerent procedures; the one, the textual -linguistic 
interpretation, is the elementary prerequisite — not in regard to the 
value and intensity of the mental work which it requires but with 
respect to its logical role — for all types of the scientific treatment and 
utilization of "source materials." It is, from the historical standpoint, 
a technical means of verifying "facts"; it is a "tool" of history (as well 
as of numerous other disciplines) . "Interpretation" in the sense of 


"value-analysis" {Wrrianalyse) ■ — as we shall designate in ad hoc 
fashion the procedure which has just been described above^'^ — does 
not in any case stand in the same relationship to history. Now, since 
this type of "interpretation" is oriented neither towards the disclosure 
of facts which arc "causally" relevant for an historical context nor 
toward the abstraction of "typical" components which are usable for 
the construction of a class concept (Gattunsbe^riff) , since in contrast 
with these it rather considers its object, i.e., to keep Eduard Meyer's 
example, the "total culture," let us say, of the high point of Hellenistic 
civilization as a unity — "for its own sake" and makes it intelligible 
in its "value-relations." Hence it is not subsumable under any of the 
other categories of knowledge, the direct or indirect relations of 
which to "liistory" were prc\iously discussed. This type of interpre- 
tation can not, in particular, be properly deemed as an "auxiliary" to 
history — ^ as Eduard Meyer (p. 54, bottom) views his "philology" — 
for it indeed treats its objects from viewpoints quite other than his- 
tory does. If the distinction between the two kinds of interpretation 
were to be sought only in this, that the one (i.e., value-analysis) 
treats its objects "statically" as finished products while the other 
(history) treats its objects "developmentally," the former cutting a 
cross section through events, the latter a longitudinal section, then it 
would assuredly be of quite minor significance. Even the historian, 
e.g., Eduard Meyer in his own works, must in order to weave 
his design, take his point of departure in certain "given" beginnings 
which he describes "satically" [zustdndlich) and he will, in the 
(oursc of his exposition, repeatedly group the "results" of "develop- 
ments" into "static" cross sections. A monographic presentation, for 
instance, of the social composition of the Athenian ccclesia at a cer- 
tain point of time for the purpose of helping to make clear its own 
causal-historical conditions on the one hand and its effect on the 
political "situation" in Athens on the other, is certainly, even accord- 
ing to Eduard Meyer, an "historical" work. The distinction in 
question seems for Eduard Meyer rather to lie in the fact that "philo- 
logical" (i.e., "value-analytical") work can and indeed normally 

22 This is done essentially to distinguish this type of "interpretation" from that 
which is only tcxual-linguistic. The fact that this distinction docs not invari- 
ably actually occur in practice should not impede the logical distinction. 


will concern itself with facts which are relevant to history but that 
tog'lher with these, it will have occasion to concern itself with facts 
which are quite different from those dealt with by history. "Value- 
analysis deals with facts which are neither (1) themselves links in an 
historical causal sequence, nor (2) usable as heuristic means for 
disclosing facts of category ( 1 ) . In other words, the facts of value- 
analysis stand in none of the relations to history which have been 
hitherto considered. In what other relations then do they stand, or 
does this value-analytical approach have no relationship whatsoever 
to any type of historical knowledge? 

To get ahead with our discussion, let us turn to our example of 
the letters of Frau von Stein and let us take as a second example Karl 
Marx's Kapital. Both can obviously become the objects of interpre- 
tation, not only of textual-linguistic interpretation of which we shall 
not speak here, but also of the "value-analytical" interpretation which 
enables us to "understand" their relations to values [Wertbeziehung- 
en) and which analyzes and "psychologically" interprets the letters 
of Frau von Stein in the way, for instance, in which one "interprets" 
"Faust" or investigates Marx's Kapital with respect to its intellectual 
content and expounds its intellectual but not its historical — relation- 
ship to other systems of ideas concerned with the same problems. 
"Value-analysis" treats its objects for this purpose, following Eduard 
Meyer's terminology, primarily in a "static" (zustdndlich) way, i.e., 
in a more correct formulation, it takes its point of departure in their 
character as "values" independent of all purely historical-causal sig- 
nificance, and to that extent as having a status which is for us, beyond 
history. But does "value-analytical" interpretation confine itself to 
such an object? Certainly not! — an interpretation of those letters 
of Goethe no more than one of Das Kapital or of Faust or of Orestes 
or of the Sistine Chapel paintings. It would rather, precisely in 
order wholly to attain its own goal, take into account that that Ideal 
value-object (Wertobjekt) was historically conditioned, that numer- 
ous nuances and turns of thought and sentiment remain "incompre- 
hensible," when the general conditions, e.g., the social "milieu" and 
the quite concrete events of the days on which those Goethe-letters 
were written are unknown, when the historically given "problem- 
situation" of the time In which Marx wrote his book and his develop- 


nient as a thinker remain undiscussed. Thus the "interpretation" of 
Goethe's letters requires for its success an historical investigation of the 
conditions under which they came into being, including all those very 
minor as well as the most comprehensive relationships {YMsammen- 
hange) in Goethe's purely personal — "domestic" — environment as 
well as in the total broader cultural environment in its widest sense 
which were of causal significance — "effective" in Eduard Meyer's 
words — for their particular quality. For the knowledge of all these 
causal conditions teaches us indeed the psychic constellations in which 
those letters were born, and thereby it enables us really to "under- 
stand" them. ^^ 

23 Even Vossler, in his analysis of a fable of La Fontaine contained in his bril- 
liantly written, intentionally one-sided Die Sprache ah Schopfung und Entwick- 
hing (Heidelberg 1905, p. 8 and fT.), provides confirmation of this statement 
although he does not wish to do so. The only "legitimate" task of "aesthetic" 
interpretation is, for him, (as it is for Croce, whose position is close to his own) 
to show that, and to what extent, the literary "creation" is an adequate 

Nevertheless he, too, is compelled to have recourse to a reference to 
the quite concrete "psychic" characteristics of La Fontaine (p. 93) and beyond 
these to "milieu" and "race" and yet we cannot discern the reasons why this 
causal imputation, this inquiry into the origins of what exists, which, by the 
way, always operates with generalizing concepts (on this point, more later) 
breaks off at the very point at which this very attractive and instructive sketch 
does or why the extension of this causal imputation for purposes of "interpre- 
tation" is thought to become useless, as Vossler seems to think at this point. 
When Vossler again retracts those concessions by saying that he recognizes the 
"spatial" and "temporal" conditionedness "only for the matter" (StofTj 
(p. 95) but asserts that the "form" which is alone aesthetically essential, is a 
"free creation of the spirit," it must be recalled that he is following a term- 
inology like that of Croce. Accordingly, "freedom" is equivalent to "conform- 
ity with norms" (Normgemassheit) and "form" is correct expression in Croce's 
sense, and as such is identical with resthetic value. This terminology involves 
the danger, however, of leading to the confusion of "existence" and "norm." 

It is the great merit of Vossler's stimulating essay that it once more stresses 
very strongly, against the pure phoneticists and linguistic positivists, that ( I ) 
there exists the entirely autonomous scientific task of the interpretation of the 
"values" and "norms" of literary creations as well as the physiology and psy- 
chology of language, "historical" investigations, and those seeking to establish 
"phonetic" laws; and that (2) the very understanding and "experience" of 
these "values" and norms is also a sine qua non for the causal interpretation of 
the origin and conditionedness of mental and spiritual creations, since the 
creator of literary productions or of linguistic expressions himself "experiences" 
them. However, it should be noted that in this case where the values and 
norms are the means of causal knowledge and not standards of value they come 
into play in the logical role, not of "norms" but rather in their pure factuality 
as "possible" empirical contents of a "psychic" event. They are in this role, 
not different "in principle ' from the delusions of a paralytic. I believe that 


But it still remains true, on the other hand, that causal "explana- 
tion," here as elsewhere, undertaken for its own sake, and a la Duntzer, 
"grasps only part of the matter." And obviously, that type of "inter- 
pretation" which we have alone called "value analysis" functions as 
a guide for this other "historical," i.e., causal type of "interpretation." 
The former type of analysis reveals the "valued" components of the 
object, the causal "explanation" of which is the problem of the latter 
type of analysis. The former creates the points of attachment from 
which there are to be regressively traced the web of causal connec- 
tions and thus provides causal analysis with the decisive "viewpoints" 
without which it would indeed have to operate, as it were, without a 
compass on an uncharted sea. Now, anyone can — and many will — - 
deny that there is need, as far as they themselves are concerned, to 
see the whole apparatus of historical analysis straining at the task of 
the historical "explanation" of a series of "love letters," be they ever 
so sublime. Certainly — but the same is true, however, disrespecful it 
seems, of Karl Marx's Das Kapital, and for all the objects of histor- 
ical research. The knowledge of the materials out of which Marx con- 
structed his work, the knowledge of how the genesis of his ideas was 
historically conditioned, and any historical knowledge of today's power 
relationship, or of the development of the German political system 
in its particular characteristics can, of course, appear to anyone to be 
a thoroughly dull and fruitless thing or, at least, one of wcvy secondary 
importance and one which as an end in itself is indeed quite meaning- 
less. But neither logic nor scientific experience can "refute" him, as 
Eduard Meyer has expressly conceded, although certainly in a some- 
what curt way. 

It will be profitable for our purposes to dwell a bit longer on the 
logical nature of value-analysis. The attempt has been made in all 
seriousness to understand or to "refute" H. Rickert's very clearly 

\'^ossler's and Crocc's terminology, which tends repeatedly towards the logical 
confusion of "valuation" and (causal) "explanation" and to a denial of the 
autonomy of the latter, weakens the cogency of the argument. Those tasks 
of purely empirical work themselves are and remain, alongside of those tasks 
which Vossler calls "aesthetics," autonomous, both in substance and in logical 
function. That such causal analysis is today called "folk psychology" or "psy- 
chology'" is a result of a terminological fad; but this can not, ultimately, in 
any way affect the objective justification for this type of analysis. 


developed idea that the construction of the "historical individual" is 
conditioned by "value-relevance" {Wertbcziehung) as asserting that 
this relevance to values is identical with a subsumption under general 
concepts"* such as the "state," "religion," "art," etc., and similar con- 
cepts, which are assuredly, it is said, the "values" in question; the 
fact that history brings its objects into relation with these values and 
thereby attains specific "viewpoints" is then equivalent — this is what 
is added — to the separate treatment of the "chemical," "physical," 
etc., "aspects" of events in the sphere of the natural sciences.^^ These 
are remarkable misunderstandings of what is and must be understood 
by "value-relevance" (Wertbcziehung) . An actual "value-judgment" 
concerning a concrete object or the theoretical establishment of the 
possible "value-relations" of the object does not imply that I subsume 
them under a certain class-concept: "love letter," "political structure," 
"economic phenomenon." Rather, the "value-judgment" involves my 
"taking an attitude" in a certain concrete way to the object in its 
concrete individuality; the subjective sources of this attitude of mine, 
of my "value-standpoints" which are decisive for it are definitely not 
a "concept," and certainly not an "abstract concept" but rather a 
thoroughly concrete, highly individually structured and constituted 
"feeling" and "preference"; it may, however, be under certain circum- 
stances the consciousness of a certain, and here again, concrete kind 
of imperative (sollens) . And when I pass from the stage of the actual 
evaluation of an object into the stage of theoretical-interpretative 
reflection on possible relevance to values, in other words, \vhcn I con- 
struct "historical individuals" from the objects, it means that I am 
making explicit to myself and to others in an interpretative way the 
concrete, individual, and on that account, in the last analysis, unique 
form in which "ideas"- — to employ for once a metaphysical usage — 
are "incorporated" into or "work themselves out" in the political struc- 
tures in question (e.g., in the "state of Frederick the Great"), of the 
personality in question (e.g., Goethe or Bismarck) or the literary prod- 

^'^ This is the view of Schmcidler in Ostwald's Annalen der Naturphilosophie 
III, pp. 24 ff. 

25 This view, to my astonishment, was also taken by Franz Eulenberg in the 
Archiv fur Sozialwissenschnft. His polemic apainst Rickert and "his men" is 
only possible in my opinion precisely because he excludes from his considera- 
tions the object the logical analysis of which is at issue, namely, "history." 


uct in question (e.g., Marx's Kapital). Or in a different formulation 
which avoids the always dubious and moreover avoidable metaphys- 
ical mode of expression: in constructing historical individuals I elab- 
orate in an explicit form the focal points for possible "evaluative" 
attitudes which the segment of reality in question discloses and in 
consequence of which it claims a more or less universal "meaning" — 
which is to be sharply distinguished from causal "significance." Das 
Kapital of Karl Marx shares the characteristic of being a "literary 
product" with those combinations of printers' ink and paper which 
appear weekly in the Brockhaus List — what makes it into an "his- 
torical" individual for us is, however, not its membership in the class 
of literary products but rather on the contrary, its thoroughly unique 
"intellectual content," which "we" find "set down" in it. In the 
same way the quality of a "political event" is shared by the pothouse 
political chatter of the philistine having his last drink at closing time 
with that complex of printed and written paper, sound waves, bodily 
movements on drill grounds, clever or also foolish thoughts in the 
heads of princes, diplomats, etc., which "we" synthesize into the indi- 
vidual conceptual structure of the "German Empire" because "we" 
turn to it with a certain "historical interest" which is thoroughly 
unique for us, and which is rooted in innumerable "values" — and 
not just political values either. To express this "significance" — the 
content of the object, for instance, of Faust, with respect to possible 
relevance to values, or stated in another way, to think of expressing 
the "content of our interest" in the historical individual — by means 
of a class-concept is obviously nonsense. Indeed, the inexhaustibility 
of its "content" as regards possible focal points for our interest is 
what is characteristic of the historical individual of the "highest" 
order. The fact that we classify certain "important" tendencies in 
the ways of relating historical objects to relevant values and that this 
classification is then useful as a basis for the division of labor of the 
cultural sciences, naturally leaves entirely unaffected^^ the fact that 

26 When I investigate the social and economic determinants of the emergence 
of a concrete "embodiment" of "Christianity," for instance, of the provencal 
knightly poetry, I do not thereby turn these latter into phenomena which are 
"evaluated" for the sake of their economic significance. The way in which the 
individual investigator or the particularly traditionally delimited "discipline" 
defines its "sphere" out of purely technical considerations of the division of 
labor, is of not logical significance here. 


the proposition: a "value" of "general, i.e., universal significance" is a 
"general," i.e., abstract (genereller) concept is just as curious as the 
opinion that one can express "the truth" in a single sentence or per- 
form "the ethically right" in one single action or embody "the beauti- 
ful" in one single work of art. 

But let us return to Eduard Meyer and his attempts to cope with 
the problem of historical "significance." The foregoing reflections do 
indeed leave the sphere of methodology and touch on the philosophy 
of history. From the point of view which stands firmly on the ground 
of methodolog)', the circumstance that certain individual components 
of reality are selected as objects of historical treatment is to be justified 
only by reference to this factual existence of a corresponding interest. 
"Value-relevance" cannot indeed mean more for such a view which 
docs not enquire after the meaning of this interest. And thus Eduard 
Meyer, too, is on this matter, content to say — justifiably from this 
point of view — that the fact of the existence of this interest suffices 
for history, however lowly one might rate this interest in itself. But 
certain obscurities and contradictions in his discussion are clearly 
enough the results of such an imperfect philosophical-historical orien- 

"The selection" (of history) "rests on the historical interest, which 
the present has in any effect, in the results of historic development, 
so that it feels the need of tracing the causes which have brought it 
about," says Eduard Meyer (p. 37). He later interprets this to mean 
(p. 45) that the historian finds "the problems with which he ap- 
proaches history within himself," and that these problems then give 
him "the guiding principles by which he orders the material." 

This agrees entirely with what has already been said and is, more- 
over, the only possible sense in which the previously criticized state- 
ment of Eduard Meyer about "the ascent from effect to cause" is 
correct. It is not a question here, as he believes, of utilizing the 
concept of causality in a way peculiar to history but rather of the 
fact that only those "causes" are "historically significant" which the 
regressus, which begins with a "valued" cultural component, must 
incorporate into itself as indispensable components. What is involved 
here, then, is the principal of "teleological dependence" as it has been 
designated in a phrase which is sure to be subject to misunderstanding. 


But the question then arises: must this point of departure of the 
regressus always be a component of the present, as might, on the basis 
of the quotation cited above, be believed to be Eduard Meyer's view? 
As a matter of fact, Eduard Meyer does not take an entirely certain 
position on this point. He provides no clear indication — this is 
apparent from what has already been said — of what he really under- 
stands by his term "historically effective." For — as has already been 
pointed out to him by others — if only what has "effects" belongs in 
history, the crucial cjuestion for every historical exposition: for exam- 
ple his own Geschichte des Altertums: is then: what final outcome 
and which of its elements should be taken as fundamental, as having 
been "effected" by the historical development to be described; it must 
also be decided, in that event, whether a fact bcause it has no causal 
significance for any component of that final outcome must be excluded 
as being historically inconsequential. Many of Eduard Meyer's asser- 
tions create the impression at first that the objective "cultural situa- 
tion" of the present — as we shall call it for the sake of brevity — 
should be decisive here. According to this view, only facts which 
still today are of causal significance, in our contemporary political, 
economic, social, religious, ethical, scientific, or any other sectors of 
our cultural life, and the "effects" of which are directly perceptible 
at present (cf. p. 37) belong in an "History of Antiquity"; on the 
other hand, however, it would be an entirely irrelevant criterion 
whether a fact were even of the most fundamental significance for 
the particular character of the culture of antiquity (cf. p. 48) . Eduard 
Meyer's work would shrink rather badly — think of the volume on 
Egypt, for instance, if he took this proposition seriously and many 
would not indeed find precisely that which they expect in a history 
of antiquity if this were so. But he leaves another path open (p. 37) : 
we can also experience it — i.e., what was historically "effective" — 
"in the past to the extent that we treat any phase of it as if it were 
contemporaneous." In view of this, any cultural component whatso- 
ever can surely be "treated" as "effective" from some standpoint, 
however chosen, in a history of antiquity — but in that case, the 
delimitation which Eduard Meyer seeks to establish would dissolve. 
And there would still arise the question: which feature of events is 
accepted by an "History of Antiquity" as the criterion of what is of 


essential importance for the historian? From Eduard Meyer's stand- 
point, the answer must be: the "end" of ancient history, i.e., the 
situation which appears to us as the appropriate "end point" — thus, 
for example, the reign of the Emperor Romulus, or the reign of 
Justinian — or probably better — the reign of Diocletian. In this 
event, everything in any case which is "characteristic" of this "final 
epoch," this "old age" of antiquity would undoubtedly belong, to its 
fullest extent, in the exposition of the age's close as would all the 
"facts" which were causally essential ("effective") in this process of 
"aging." This inclusiveness is necessary because the object of histor- 
ical explanation is constituted by what is characteristic of the epoch. 
At the same time we would have to exclude, for example, in the 
description of Greek culture, everything which no longer exercised 
any "cultural influences" at that time (i.e., during the reigns of 
Emperors Romulus or Diocletian), and this in the then existing state 
of literature, philosophy and general culture, would be a terribly 
large part of those very elements which render the "history of antiqui- 
ty" valuable to us and which we, fortunately, do not find omitted 
from Eduard Meyer's own work. 

An history of antiquity which would include only what exercised 
causal influences on any later epoch, would — especially if one re- 
gards political relations as the true backbone of the historical, — appear 
as empty as a "history" of Goethe which "mediatized" him — to use 
Ranke's expression, in favor of his epigoni, which in other words, 
described only those elements among his characteristics and his 
actions which remain "influential" in literature; there is no distinc- 
tion in principle in this regard between scientific (wissenschaftliche) 
"biography" and historical objects which are otherwise delimited. 
Eduard Meyer's thesis is not realizable in the formulation which he 
has given to it. Or do we have, in his case, too, an escape from the 
contradiction between his theory and his own practice. We have 
heard Eduard Meyer say that the historian derives his problems "from 
within himself, and he adds to this remark: "the present in which 
the historian works is a factor which can not be excluded from any 
historical presentation." Are we to regard the "effectiveness" of a 
"fact" which marks it as "an historical fact" as existing where a mod- 
ern historian interests himself and is able to interest his readers in the 


fact in its particular individuality and in those features of its origins 
through which it has become what it is and not something else? 

Obviously, Eduard Meyer's arguments (pp. 36, 37, and 45) con- 
fuse two quite different conceptions of "historical facts." The first 
refers to such elements of reality which are "valued," it might be said, 
"for their own sake" in their concrete uniqueness as objects of our 
interest; the second, to those components of reality to which attention 
is necessarily drawn by our need to understand the causal determina- 
tion of those "valued" components — this second type of "historical 
fact" is the one which is historically "effective" in Eduard Meyer's 
sense, i.e., as a "cause" in the causal regress. One may designate the 
former as historical individuals, the latter as historical (real) causes, 
and, with Rickert, distinguish them as "primary" and "secondary" 
historical facts. A strict confinement of an historical analysis to his- 
torical "causes," i.e., to the "secondary" facts in Rickert's sense, or, 
in other words, to the "effective" facts in Eduard Meyer's sense is, 
naturally, only possible for us if it is already unambiguously clear with 
which historical individual the causal explantion is to be exclusively 
concerned. However inclusive this primary object might be — it 
might be, for example, the total "modern culture," i.e., the present- 
day Christian capitalistic constitutional {rechtsstaatliche) culture 
which "radiates" from Europe and which is a phantastic tangle of 
"cultural values" which may be considered from the most diverse 
standpoints — the causal regress which explains it historically must, 
if it extends back into the Middle Ages or Antiquity, nonetheless 
omit, because they are causally unimportant, a great wealth of objects 
which arouse to a high degree our "interest" "for their own sake." 
These latter facts can become "historical individuals" in their own 
right from which an explanatory causal regress might have its point 
of departure. It is certainly to be granted that "historical interest" 
in these latter facts is particularly slight in consequence of their lack 
of causal significance for a universal history of contemporary culture. 
The cultural development of the Incas and Aztecs left historically 
relevant traces to such a relatively very slight extent that a universal 
history of the genesis of modern culture in Eduard Meyer's sense could 
perhaps be silent about it without loss. If that is so — as we shall 
now assume — then what we know about the cultural development 


of the Incas and Aztecs becomes relevant to us, in the first instance, 
neither as an "historical object," nor as an "historical cause" but 
rather as an "heuristic instrument" for the formation of theoretical 
concepts appropriate to the study of culture. This knowledge may 
function positively to supply an illustration, individualized and specific, 
in the formation of the concept of feudalism or negatively, to delimit 
certain concepts with which we operate in the study of European cul- 
tural history from the quite different cultural traits of the Incas and 
the Aztecs; this latter function enables us to make a clearer genetic 
comparison of the historical uniqueness of European cultural develop- 
ment. Precisely the same considerations apply, of course, to those 
components of ancient culture which Eduard Meyer — if he were 
consistent — would have to exclude from a history of antiquity ori- 
ented towards present cultural situation, because they did not become 
historically "effective." 

Despite all this, it is obviously neither logically nor in the nature 
of facts, to be excluded in regard to the Incas and the Aztecs, that 
certain elements of their culture in its characteristic aspects could be 
made into an historical "individual," i.e., they could first be analyzed 
"interpretatively" with respect to their "relevance to values," and 
then they could once more be made into an object of "historical" 
investigation so that now the regressive inquiry into causes would pro- 
ceed to the facts concerning the cultural development of those elements 
which become, in relation to the historical individual, its "historical 
causes." And if anyone composes an "Histor)- of Antiquity" it is a 
vain self-deception to believe that it contains only facts which are 
causally "effective" in our contemporary culture because it deals only 
with facts which are significant either "primarily" as evaluated "his- 
torical individuals" or "secondarily" as "causes" (in relation to these 
or other "individuals"). 

It is our interest which is oriented towards "values" and not the 
objective causal relationship between our culture and Hellenic culture 
which determines the range of the cultural values which are con- 
trolling for a history of Hellenic culture. That epoch which we 
usually — valuing it entirely subjectively — view as the "pinnacle" of 
Hellenic culture, i.e., the period between Aeschylus and Aristotle, 
enters wdth its cultural contents as an "intrinsic value" (Eigenwert) 


into every "History of Antiquity," including Eduard Meyer's. This 
could change only if, in the event that some future age became only 
as capable of attaining a direct "value-rapport" {Wertbeziehung) to 
those cultural "creations" of antiquity as we are today in relation to 
the "songs" and "world view" of a central African tribe, which arouse 
our interest only as instances of cultural products, i.e., as means of 
forming concepts or as "causes." The matter then may be put as fol- 
lows: we human beings of the present day possess "'z^a/w^-rapport" of 
some sort to the characteristic embodiments of ancient culture and this 
is the only possible meaning which can be given to Eduard Meyer's 
concept of the "effective" as the "historical." How much, on the other 
hand, Eduard Meyer's own concept of the "efTective" is made up of 
heterogeneous components is shown by his account of the motivation 
of the specific interest which history shows in the "advanced cultures." 
"This rests," he says (p. 47) "on the fact that these peoples and cul- 
tures have been 'effective' to an infinitely higher degree and still 
influence the present." This is undoubtedly correct but it is by no 
means the sole reason for our decided "interest" in their significance 
as historical objects; it is especially impossible to derive from this 
proposition another proposition according to which as Eduard Meyer 
asserts (ibid.), "the interest becomes greater the more advanced they 
(i.e., the historically advanced cultures) are." The question of the 
"intrinsic value" of a culture which we touch on here, has nothing to 
do with the question of its historical "effectiveness" ; — here Eduard 
Meyer merely confuses "valuable" with "causally important." How- 
ever unconditionally correct it is that every history is written from the 
standpoint of the value-interests of the present and that every present 
situation poses or can pose new questions to the data of history be- 
pause its interest, guided by value-ideas, changes, it is certain that 
this interest "values" and turns into historical "individuals" cultural 
components that are entirely of the past, i.e., those to which a cul- 
tural component of the present day cannot be traced by a regressive 
causal chain. This is just as true of minor objects like the letters to 
Frau von Stein as of major ones like those components of Hellenic 
culture whose effects modern culture has long since outgrown. Eduard 
Meyer, has, as we saw, indeed conceded this implicity through the 
possibility which he proposed : namely, that a moment in the past can 


be "treated," as he put it, as contemporaneous"^ (p. 47). With this 
he has, in fact, admitted that even "past" cultural components are 
historical objects regardless of the existence of a still perceptible 
"effect" and can, e.g., as the "characteristic" values of anticjuity, sup- 
ply the standards for the selection of facts and the direction of histor- 
ical research in a "History of Antiquity." And now to continue. 

When Eduard Meyer cites as the exclusive reason why the present 
does not become the object of "history," the argument that one does 
pot yet know and cannot know which of its components will show 
themselves to be "effective" in the future, this proposition concerning 
the (subjective) unhistoricity of the present is right at least to a quali- 
fied extent. Only the future "decides" conclusively about the causal 
significance of the facts of the present as "causes." This is not, how- 
ever, the only aspect of the problem, even after, as is here understood, 
one disregards such incidental factors as the lack of written sources and 
records, etc. The really immediate present has not only not yet become 
an historical "cause," but it has not yet become an historical "individ- 
ual" — any more than an ' 'experience" is an object of empirical 
"knowledge" at the moment in which it is occurring "in me" and 
"about me." All historical "evaluation" includes, so to speak, a "con- 
templative" element. It includes not primarily, and only, the im- 
mediate valuation of the "attitude-taking subject" — rather is its 
essential content, as we have seen, a "knowledge" of the object's 
possible "relations to values" {Wertbeziehungen) . It thus presup- 
poses a capacity for change in the "attitude" towards the object, at 
least theoretically. This used to be expressed as follows: we "must 
become objective" towards an experience before it "belongs to his- 
tory" as an object — but this does certainly not imply that it is causally 

But we are not to elaborate further this discussion of the relation- 
ship of "experiencing" and "knowing" here. It is enough that in the 
course of the foregoing extensive exposition, it has become quite 
clear not only that, but also why, Eduard Meyer's concept of the 

27 Which procedure, however, according to his remarks on p. 55, can be done 
after all, really only by "philology." 


"historical" as the "effective" is inadequate. It lacks, above all, the 
logical distinction between the "primary" historical object, that very 
valued cultural individual to which attaches the interest in the causal 
explanation of its coming to be, and the "secondary" historical facts, 
the causes to which the "valued" characteristics of that "individual" 
are related in the causal regress. This imputation of causes is made 
with the goal of being, in principle, "objectively" valid as empirical 
truth absolutely in the same sense as any proposition at all of empir- 
ical knowledge. Only the adequacy of the data desides the question, 
which is wholly factual, and not a matter of principle, as to whether 
the causal analysis attains this goal to the degree which explanations 
do in the field of concrete natural events. It is not the determination 
of the historical "causes" for a given "object" to be explained which 
is "subjective" in a certain sense which we shall not discuss here again 
— rather is it the delimitation of the historical "object," of the "indi- 
vidual" itself, for in this the relevant values are decisive and the con- 
ception of the values is that which is subject to historical change. It 
is therefore incorrect in the first place when Eduard Meyer asserts 
(p. 45) that we are "never" able to attain an "absolute and uncondi- 
tionally valid" knowledge of anything historical — this is not correct 
for "causes." It is, however, also equally incorrect when he then asserts 
that the situation is "no different" with respect to the validity of 
knowledge, in the natural sciences from what it is in the historical 
disciplines. The latter proposition is not true for the historical "indi- 
viduals," i.e., for the way in which "values" play a role in history, 
nor does it hold for the mode of being of those "values." (Regardless 
of how one conceives of the "validity" of those "values" as such, — 
the "validity" of the values is in any case something which is different 
in principle from the validity of a causal relationship which is an 
empirical truth, even if both should in the last analysis also be con- 
ceived of philosophically as normatively bound.) The "points of 
view," which are oriented towards "values," from which we consider 
cultural objects and from which they become "objects" of historical 
research, change. Because, and as long as they do, new "facts" will 
always be becoming historically "important" [wesentlich) , and they 
will always become so in a new way — for in logical discussions such 
as these we assume once and for all that the source materials will 


remain unchanged. This way of being conditioned by "subjective 
values" is, however, entirely ahen in any case to those natural sciences 
which take mechanics as a model, and it constitutes, indeed, the dis- 
tinctive contrast between the historical and the natural sciences. 

To summarize: insofar as the "interpretation" of an object is, in 
the usual sense of the word, a "philological" interpretation, e.g., of 
its linguistic "meaning," it is a technical task preliminary to the his- 
torical work proper. Insofar as it analyzes "interpretatively" what is 
characteristic of the particular features of certain "cultural epochs" 
or certain personalities or certain individual objects (such as works of 
art or literature), it aids in the formation of historical concepts. And 
indeed from the point of view of its logical role, it functions either 
as an auxiliary insofar as it aids in the recognition of the causally 
relevant components of a concrete historical complex as such; it 
functions, conversely, as a source of guidance and direction, inso- 
far as it "interprets" the content of an object — e.g., Faust, Orestes, 
Christianity of a particular epoch — with respect to its possible rela- 
tions to values. In doing the latter it presents "tasks" for the causal 
work of history and thus is its presupposition. The concept of the 
"culture" of a particular people and age, the concept of "Christian- 
ity," of "Faust," and also — there is a tendency to overlook this — the 
concept of "Germany," etc., are individualized value-concepts formed 
as the objects of historical research, i.e., by relations with value-ideas. 

If these values themselves with which we approach the facts are 
made the objects of analysis, we are — depending on the aim of our 
knowing — conducting studies in the philosophy of history or the 
psychology of "historical interest." If, on the other hand, we treat a 
concrete object from the standpoint of "value analysis," i.e., "inter- 
preting" it with respect to its particular characteristics so that the 
possible evaluations of the object are "suggestively" made vivid to 
us, an "empathic experience" {"Nacherleben") as it used to be called 
(albeit veiy incorrectly), of a cultural creation is aimed at, this is 
still not "historical work" — this is the "justified kernel" in Eduard 
Meyer's formulation. But even though it is not historical work, it is 
the inevitable "forma formans" of historical "interest" in an object, 
of its primary conceptualization into an "individual" and of the causal 
work of history which only then becomes meaningfully possible. In 


ever so many cases, the adduced evaluations of daily life have formed 
the object and paved the way for historical research — this occurs 
even in the beginnings of all historical writing in political communi- 
ties, especially in the historian's own state. The historian might thus 
come to believe when he confronts these fixed and firm "objects" 
which apparently — but only apparently and only in the range of 
familiar, routine use — do not require any special value-interpretation, 
that he is in his "proper" domain. As soon, however, as he leaves the 
broad highway and seeks also to achieve great new insights into the 
"unique" political "character" of a state or in the "unique character" 
of a political genius, he must proceed here, too, as far as the logical 
principle is concerned, as does the interpreter of Faust. But, of course 

— and here Eduard Meyer is correct, where an analysis remains at the 
level of such an "interpretation" of the intrinsic value of the object, the 
task of the ascertainment of causes is left undone and the question is 
not even raised in regard to the object, as to what it "signifies" caus- 
ally with respect to other more comprehensive, more contemporaneous 
cultural objects. At this point, historical research has not yet got 
under way and the historian can perceive only the raw materials of 
historical problems. It is only the way in which Meyer tries to ground 
his belief that is in my opinion untenable. Since Eduard Meyer 
perceives especially the "static," "systematic" treatment of data as 
representative of the opposite principle from that of history, and since, 
e.g., Rickert too, after having seen the "systematic," which is charac- 
teristic of a "natural science" view even in the social and mental 
sphere, in opposition to the "historical cultural sciences," has more 
recently formulated the concept of the "systematic cultural sciences" 

— the task then is, to raise the following problem later in another 
section: what "systematics" can properly mean and in what different 
sets of relationships it stands to the historical approach and the 
"natural sciences.""^ 

The mode of treatment of ancient, particularly Hellenic culture 
which Eduard Meyer calls the "philological method," i.e., which 
takes the form of "classical studies," is indeed primarily actually realiz- 

es With this we really enter into a discussion of the various possible principles 
of a "classification" of the "sciences." 


able through the requisite Hnguistic mastery of the sources. But it is 
determined not only by that but also by the particular characteristics 
of certain outstanding scholars, and above all by the "significance" 
which the culture of classical antiquity has had for our own spiritual 
and intellectual discipline. Let us attempt to formulate those stand- 
points towards ancient culture which are, in principle, conceivable, 
in an extremely schematic and hence purely theoretical fashion. ( 1 ) 
One point of view would be the conception of the absolute value of 
ancient culture, the exemplifications of which in humanism, as ex- 
pressed, for instance, in Winckclmann, and ultimately in all the vari- 
ants of so-called "classicism" we shall not investigate here. According 
to this conception, if we follow it to its uttermost implications, the 
elements of ancient culture are — insofar as neither the Christian 
components of our culture nor the products of rationalism have "sup- 
plemented" or "re-shaped" it — at least virtual elements of culture as 
such. They are such, not because they have been "causally" effective 
in Eduard Meyer's sense of the term, but rather because on account 
of their absolute value they should be causally effective in our educa- 
tion. Hence, ancient culture is primarily an object of interpretation 
in usum scholarum, for purposes of educating one's own people to the 
level of an advanced state of culture. "Philology" in its most com- 
prehensive meaning, i.e., as the "knowledge of what has been known," 
perceives in classical antiquity something which is in principle more 
than merely historical, something timelcssly valid. (2) The other, 
modern point of view stands in extreme contrast: the culture of 
antiquity, according to this view, is so infinitely remote from us as 
regards its true individuality that it is entirely meaningless to wish to 
give the "all too many" an insight into its true "essence." It is rather 
a sublime valued object for the few who imbue themselves with the 
highest form of humanity which cannot in any essential features recur 
and who wish to "enjoy" it in a somewhat aesthetic way."'' (3) Fin- 
ally, the methods of classical studies are of service to a scientific 
interest for which the source materials of antiquity provide primarily 
an uncommonly rich body of ethnographic data which can be used 

23 It could he the reputed "esoteric" doctrine of U. von Willamowitz against 
which Eduard Meyer's attack is primarily directed. 


for the acquisition of general concepts, analogies, and developmental 
laws applicable in the pre-history, not only of our own culture, but 
of "every" culture A pertinent instance is the development of the 
study of comparative religion — the attainment of its present high level 
would have been impossible without the exhaustive survey of antiquity 
made possible through strictly philological training. Antiquity comes 
into consideration on this view insofar as its cultural content is appro- 
priate as an heuristic means for the construction of general "types." 
In contrast with the first "point of view," thus one does not regard 
classical antiquity as providing an "enduring" cultural norm, and in 
contrast with the second, it does not look on classical antiquity as an 
absolutely unique object of individual contemplative evaluation. 

We quickly see that all three of these "theoretically" formulated 
conceptions are interested for their own purposes in the treatment of 
ancient history in the form of "classical studies." We also do not need 
a special comment to see that, in each of them, the interest of the 
historian in fact falls short of exhausting their interest, since all three 
have something different from "history" as their primary aim. But 
when, on the other hand, Eduard Meyer seriously seeks to eradi- 
cate from the history of antiquity that which is no longer historically 
"effective" in the contemporary world, he would be justifiably open 
to the criticism of his opponents in the eyes of all those who look 
for more than an historical "cause" in antiquity. And all the admirers 
of his great work rejoice that he cannot at all proceed with any fidelity 
to these ideas, and they hope that he will not even attempt to do so 
for the sake of an erroneously formulated theory. ^^ 

30 The breadth of the foregoing discussions is obviously incommensurate with 
what "comes out" of them in directly practical results for "methodology." To 
those who for this reason regard them as superfluous, it can only be recom- 
mended that they simply avoid questions bearing on the "meaning" of knowl- 
edge and content themselves with the acquisition of "valuable" knowledge by 
concrete research. It is not the historians who have raised these questions 
but those who have put forward the wrong-headed view, and who are still 
playing variations on the theme, that "scientific knowledge" is identical with 
the "discovery of laws." This is definitely a question of the "meaning" of 



"The outbreak of the Second Punic War," says Eduard Meyer 
(p. 16), "is the consequence of the willed decision of Hannibal; that 
of the Seven Years War, of Frederick the Great; that of the War of 
.1866, of Bismarck. They could all have decided differently and 
other persons would have . . . decided differently. In consequence, 
the course of history would have been different." To this he adds 
in a footnote (p. 10, fn. 2) : "By this we do not mean to assert or 
deny that in the latter case, these wars would not have occurred: 
this is a completely unaswerable and superfluous question." Disre- 
garding the awkward relationship between the second sentence and 
his earlier proposition about the relationship between "freedom" and 
"necessity" in history, we must here question the view that questions 
which we cannot answer, or cannot answer with certainty, are on 
that acount "idle" questions. It would go poorly with the empirical 
sciences, too, if those highest problems to which they can give no 
answer were never raised. We are not considering here such "ultimate" 
problems; we are rather dealing with a question which has, on the 
one hand, been "dated" by the course of events, and which, on the 
other, cannot in fact be answered positively and unambiguously in 
the light of our actual and possible knowledge — it is a question 
which, moreover, viewed from a strictly "deterministic" standpoint, 
discusses the consec|uences of that which was, in view of the given 
"determinants," impossible. ^ And yet, despite all this, the problem: 
what might have happened if, for example, Bismarck had not decided 
to make war, is by no means an "idle" one. It does indeed bear on 
something decisive for the historical moulding of reality, namely, on 
what causal significance is properly to be attributed to this individual 
decision in the context of the totality of infinitely numerous "factors," 
all of which had to be in such and such an arrangement and in no 
other if this result were to emerge, and what role it is therefore to be 
asigned in an historical exposition. If history is to be raised above the 
'evel of a mere chronicle of notable events and personalities, it has 
no alternative but to pose such questions. And so indeed it has pro- 
'^eeded since its establishment as a science. This is the correct element 



in Eduard Meyer's previously quoted formulation that history consid- 
ers events from the standpoint of "becoming" and that accordingly 
its object is not in the domain of "necessity" which is characteristic 
of what has already "occurred"; that the historian behaves in the 
estimation of the causal significance of a concrete event similarly to 
the historical human being who has an attitude and will of his own 
and who would never "act" if his own action appeared'^^ to him as 
"necessary" and not only as "possible." The distinction is only this: 
the acting person weighs, insofar as he acts rationally — we shall 
assume this here — the "conditions" of the future development which 
interests him, which conditions are "external" to him and are objec- 
tively given as far as his knowledge of reality goes. He mentally re- 
arranges into a causal complex the various "possible modes" of his 
own conduct and the consequences which these could be expected to 
have in connection with the "external" conditions. He does this in 
order to decide, in accordance with the (mentally) disclosed "pos- 
sible" results, in favor of one or another mode of action as the one 
appropriate to his "goal." The historian has, however, the advantage 
over his hero in that he knows a posteriori whether the appraisal of 
the given external conditions corresponded in fact with the knowledge 
and expectations which the acting person developed. The answer to 
this question is indicated by the actual "success" of the action. And 
with that ideal maximum knowledge of those conditions which we 
will and may theoretically assume here once and for all while clarify- 
ing logical questions — although in reality such a maximum be 
achieved ever so rarely, perhaps never — the historian can carry out 
retrospectively the same mental calculation which his "hero" more or 
less clearly performed or could have performed. Hence, the historian 
is able to consider the question : which consequences were to be antici- 
pated had another decision been taken, with better chances of success 
than, for example, Bismarck himself. It is clear that this way of 
looking at the matter is very far from being "idle." Eduard Meyer 
himself applies (p. 43) very nearly this procedure to the two shots 
which in the Berlin March days directly provoked the outbreak of the 

•^^ The correctness of this proposition is not affected by Kistiakowski's criticism 
(op. cit., p. 393) which does not apply to this concept of "possibility." 


street fighting. The question as to who fired them is, he says, "histor- 
ically irrelevant." Why is it more irrelevant than the discussion of 
the decisions of Hannibal, Frederick the Great, and Bismarck? "The 
situation was such that any accident whatsoever would have caused 
the. conflict to break out." ( ! ) Here we see Eduard Meyer himself 
answering the allegedly "idle" question as to what "would" have hap- 
pened without those shots;, thus their historical "significance" (in this 
case: irrelevance) is decided. The "situations" were obviously, at 
least in Meyer's view, different in the case of the decisions of Hanni- 
bal, Frederick the Great, and Bismarck. They certainly were not such 
that the conflict would have broken out in any case or under the 
concrete political constellation which actually governed its course and 
outcome, if the decision had been different. For if otherwise, these 
decisions would be as insignificant as those shots. The judgment that, 
if a single historical fact is conceived of as absent from or modified in 
a complex of historical conditions, it would condition a course of his- 
torical events in a way which would be different in certain historically 
important respects, seems to be of considerable value for the deter- 
mination of the "historical significance" of those facts. This is so 
even though the historian in practice is moved only rarely — namely, 
in instances of dispute about that very "historical significance" — to 
develop and support that judgment deliberately and explicitly. It is 
clear that this situation had to call forth a consideration of the logical 
nature of such judgments as assert what the effect of the omission or 
modification of a single causal component of a complex of conditions 
would have been and of their significance for history. Wc shall at- 
tempt to secure a clearer insight into this problem. 

The poor condition of the logical analysis*''-^ of history is also 
shown by the fact that neither historians nor mcthodologists of his- 
tory but rather representatives of very unrelated disciplines have 
conducted the authoritative investigations into this important question. 

The theory of the so-called "objective possibility" which we deal 

32 The categories to be discussed subsequently find application, as may be 
expressly remarked, not only in the domain of the usually so-called specialist 
discipline of "history" but also in the "historical" ascertainment of causes of 
every individual event, including even the individual events of "inanimate 
nature." The category of the "historical" here considered is a logical category 
and not one restricted to the technique of a single discipline. 


with here rests on the works of the distinguished physiologist v. Kries^^ 
and the common use of the concepts in the works which follow him 
or criticize him. These works are primarily criminological but they 
are also produced by other legal writers, particularly Merkel, Riimelen, 
Liepmann, and most recently, Radbruch.^* In the methodology of 
the social sciences von Kries' ideas have hitherto been adopted only 
in statistics. ^^ 

33 Ober den Begriff der objektiven Moglichkeit und einige Anwendungen des- 
selben. (Leipzig 1888.) Important bases for these discussion were first set 
forth by Von Kries in his Prinzipien der Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung. It 
should ht noted here in advance that, in accordance with the nature of the 
historical "object," only the most elementary components of Von Kries' theory 
are significant for the methodology of history. The adoption of the principles 
of the so-called "calculus of probability" in the strict sense obviously not only 
is not to be considered for the work of causal analysis in history but even the 
attempt to make an analogical use of its points of view demands the greatest 

3* The most deeply penetrating criticism of the use of von Kries' theory in the 
analysis of legal problems has been made by Radbruch {Die Lebre von der 
adequaten Verursachung Bd I. NF. Heft 3 of Ahhandlungen des von Lisztschen 
Seminars in which references to the most important other literature are to be 
found. His analytical articulation of the concept of "adequate causatiori" can 
be taken into account only later, after the theory has been presented in the 
most simple possible formulation (for which reason, as we shall see, the formu- 
lation will be only provisional and not definitive). 

35 Of the theoretical statisticians, L. von Bortkiewicz stands in a very close 
relationship to von Kries' theories. Cf. his "Die erkenntnistheoretischen 
Grundlagen der Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung" in Conrads' Jahrbucher, 3rd 
Series, vol. XVII, (Cf. also vol. XVIII), and "Die Theorie der Bevolkerungs— 
und Moralstatistik nach Lexis" (ibid. vol. XXVII). The von Kries' theory 
is also basic for A. Tschuprow, whose article on "Moral Statistics" in the 
Brockhaus-Ephron Encyclopoedic Dictionary, was unfortunately inaccessible to 
me. Cf. his article "Die Aufgaben der Theorie der Statistik" in Schmoller's 
Jahrbuch 1905, p. 421 f. I cannot agree with Th. Kistiakowski's criticism (in 
the essay, cited earlier, in Problems of Idealism, p. 378 ff.) which for the time 
being is, of course, presented only in the form of a sketch with the understand- 
ing that a more detailed presentation is reserved for later publication. His 
central charge (p. 379) is that the theory uses a false concept of cause, based 
on Mill's Logic; in particular the category of "complex" and "partial cause" 
which itself rests on an anthropomorphic interpretation of causality (in the 
sense of "efficacy" {Wirkens). (Radbruch also adumbrates the latter point, 
op. c''., p. 22 ff.) But the notion of "efficacy" {Wirkens), or as it has been 
callec more neutrally but with identical meaning, the "causal bond" is entirely 
insep^iable from any study of causes which deals with series of individualized 
qualitative changes. We will discuss later the point that the notion of efficacy 
need not and must not be encumbered with unnecessary and dubious meta- 
physical presuppositions. (Cf. concerning causal plurality and elementary 
causes, Tschuprow's exposition, op. cit. p. 436.) We shall only remark here 
that "possibility" is a "moulding" "formende" category, i.e., it functions in 


It is natural tliat it was precisely the jurists and primarily the 
jurists specializing in criminal law who treated the problem since the 
qucsUon of penal guilt, insofar as it involves the problem: under what 
circumstances can it be asserted that someone through his action has 
"caused" a certain external efTect, is purely a question of causation. 
And, indeed, this problem obviously has exactly the same logical 
structure as the problem of historical "causality." For, just like 
history, the problems of practical social relationships of men and 
especially of the legal system, are "anthropocentrically" oriented, i.e., 
they enquire into the causal significance of human "actions." And 
just as in the question of the causal determinateness of a concrete 
injurious action which is eventually to be punished under criminal 
law or for which indemnity must be made under civil law, the his- 
torian's problem of causality also is oriented towards the correlation 
of concrete eflfects with concrete causes, and not towards the estab- 
lishment of abstract "uniformities" (Gesetzliclikeiten) . Jurisprudence, 
and particularly criminal law, however, leaves the area of problems 
shared with history for a problem which is specific to it, in consequence 
of the emergence of the further problem: if and when the objective 
purely causal imputation of an effect to the action of an individual 
also suffices to define the actions as one involving his own subjective 
"guilt." For this question is no longer a purely causal one, soluble 
by the simple establishing of facts which are "objectively" discover- 

such a way as to determine the selection of the causal links to be incorporated 
into an historical exposition. The historical material once formed, on the 
other hand, contains nothing of "possibility," at least, ideally. Subjectively 
for the mind of the historian himself the historical exposition only very seldom 
attains judgments of necessity but objectively the historical exposition undoubt- 
edly is governed by the assumption that the "causes" to which the "cfTect" is 
imputed have to be regarded as unqualifiedly the sufficient conditions for its 
occurrence. (It is, of course, to be clearly noted that an infinity of conditions 
which are only summarily referred to as scientifically "without interest" arc 
associated with the causes which are deemed the sufficient conditions of the 
cfTect.) The use of the category of objective possibility does not in the least 
involve the conception, long overcome by the theory of causality, that certain 
links in real causal connections were, so to speak, "hovering about without 
efTect" up to the time of their entry into the causal chain. Von Krics himself 
has shown the contrast between his theory and John Stuart Mill's (op. cit., p. 
107) in a way which is entirely convincing to me. (Concerning this, cf. 
infra.) Still it is true that Mill, too, discussed the category of objective pos- 
sibility and in doing so, upon occasion also constructed the concept of "ade- 
quate causation." (Cf. Wcrkc, III, p. 262, Gomperz edition.) 


able by perception and causal interpretation. Rather, is it a problem 
of criminal policy oriented towards ethical and other values. For it 
is a priori possible, actually frequent, and regularly the case today, 
that the meaning of legal norms, explicitly stated or elicited by 
interpretation, inclines to the view that the existence of "guilt" in the 
sense of the applicable law should depend primarily on certain 
subjective facts in regard to the agent (e.g., intent, subjectively con- 
ditioned capacity of foresight into the effects, etc.). Under these cir- 
cumstances, the import of the logically distinctive characteristics of 
pure causal connection will be considerably modified. •'^'^ It is only 
in the first stages of the discussion that this difference in the aims of 
investigation are without significance. We ask first, in common with 
juristic theory, how in general is the attribution of ,1 concrete effect 
to an individual "cause" possible and realizable in principle in view 
of the fact that in truth an infinity of causal factors have conditioned 
the occurrence of the individual "event" and that indeed absolutely 
all of those individual causal factors were indispensable for the occur- 
rence of the effect in its concrete form. 

The possibility of selection from among the infinity of the determ- 
inants is conditioned, first, by the mode of our historical interest. 

When it is said that history seeks to understand the concrete reality 
of an "event" in its individuality causally, what is obviously not meant 
by this, as we have seen, is that it is to "reproduce" and explain causally 
the concrete reality of an event in the totality of its individual quali- 
ties. To do the latter would be not only actually impossible, it would 
also be a task which is meaningless in principle. Rather, history is 
exclusively concerned with the causal explanation of those "elements" 

3^ Modern law is directed against the agent, not against the action (cf. Rad- 
bruch, op. cit., p. 62). It enquires into subjective "guilt" whereas history, as 
long as it seeks to remain an empirical science, inquires into the "objective" 
grounds of concrete events and the consequences of concrete 'actions" ; it does 
not seek to pass judgment on the agent. Radbruch's criticism of von Kries is 
rightly based on this fundamental principle of modern — but not of all — law. 
He himself thus concedes, however, the validity of von Kries' theory in cases 
of so-called unintended damage, of compensation on account of the "abstract 
possibility of an interfering effect," (p. 71) of profit insurance and of the 
insurance of those incapable of "responsibility," i.e., wherever "objecti\e" 
causality comes clearly into question. History, however, is in exactly the 
logical situation as those cases. 


and "aspects" of the events in question which are of "general signifi- 
cance" and hence of historical interest from general standpoints, ex- 
actly in the same way as the judge's deliberations take into account 
not the total individualized course of the events of the case but rather 
those components of the events which are pertinent for subsumption 
under the legal norms. Quite apart from the infinity of "absolutely" 
trivial details, the judge is not at all interested in all those things 
which can be of interest for other natural scientific, historical and 
artistic points of view. He is not interested in whether the fatal 
thrust leads to death with incidental phenomena which might be 
quite interesting to the physiologist. He is not interested in whether 
the appearance of the dead person or the murderer could be a suit- 
able object of artistic representation ; nor, for instance, in whether the 
death will help a non-participating "man behind the scene" to gain 
a "promotion" in a bureaucratic hierarchy, i.e., whether from the 
latter's standpoint it would therefore be causally "valuable." Nor is 
the judge interested in whether the death became, say the occasion 
of certain security measures by the police, or perhaps even engendered 
certain international conflicts and thus showed itself to be "historic- 
ally" significant. All that is relevant for him is whether the causal 
chain between the thrust and the death took such a form and the 
subjective attitude of the murderer and his relation to the deed was 
such that a certain norm of criminal law is applicable. The historian, 
on the other hand, is interested in connection, for example, with 
Caesar's death, neither in the criminal-legal, nor in the medical prob- 
lems which the "case" raises, nor is he interested in the details of the 
event — unless they are important either for the "particular charac- 
teristic features" of Caesar or for the "characteristic features" of the 
party situation in Rome, i.e., unless they are of import as "heuristic 
instruments" or lastly unless they are important in relation to the 
"political eflfect" of his death, i.e., as "real causes." Rather, is he 
concerned, in this affair, primarily with the fact that the death oc- 
curred under concrete political conditions, and he discusses the ques- 
tion related thereto, namely, whether this fact had certain important 
"consequences" for the course of "world history." 

Hence, there is involved in the problem of the assignment of 
historical causes to historical effects as well as in the problem of the 


imputation of actions under the law, the exclusion of an infinity of 
components of a real action as "causally irrelevant." A given circum- 
stance is, as we see, unimportant not only when it has no relationship 
at all with the event which is under discussion, so that we can conceive 
it to be absent without atiy modification in the actual course of 
events being introduced; it is indeed sufficient to establish the causal 
irrelevance of the given circumstance if the latter appears not to have 
been the co-cause of that which alone interests us, i.e., the concretely 
essential components of the action in question. 

Our real problem is, however: by which logical operations do we 
acquire the insight and how can we demonstratively establish that such 
a causal relationship exists between those "essential" components of 
the effects and certain components among the infinity of determining 
factors. Obviously not by the simple "observation" of the course of 
events in any case, certainly not if one understands by that a "pre- 
suppositionless" mental "photograph" of all the physical and psychic 
events occurring in the space-time region in question — even if such 
were possible. Rather, does the attribution of effects to causes take 
place through a process of thought which includes a series of abstrac- 
tions. The first and decisive one occurs when we conceive of one or 
a few of the actual causal components as modified in a certain direc- 
tion and then ask ourselves whether under the conditions which have 
been thus changed, the same effect (the same, i.e., in "essential" 
points) or some other efTect "would be expected." Let us take an 
example from Eduard Meyer's own work. No one has set forth the 
world historical "significance" of the Persian Wars for the develop- 
ment of western culture as vividly and clearly as he has. How does 
this happen, logically speaking? It takes place essentially in the fol- 
lowing way: it is argued that a "decision" was made between two 
"possibilities." The first of these "possibilities" was the development of 
a theocratic-religious culture, the beginnings of which lay in the mys- 
teries and oracles, under the aegis of the Persian protectorate, which 
wherever possible utilized, as for example, among the Jews, the na- 
tional religion as an instrument of domination. The other possibility 
was represented by the triumph of the free Hellenic circle of ideas, 
oriented towards this world, which gave us those cultural values from 
which we still draw our sustenance. The "decision" was made by a 


contest of the meager dimensions of the "battle" of Marathon. This 
in its turn was the indispensible "precondition" of the development 
of the Attic fleet and thus of the further development of the war of 
liberation, the salvation of the independence of Hellenic culture, the 
positive stimulus of the beginnings of the specifically western histor- 
iography, the full development of the drama and all that unique life 
of the mind which took place in this — by purely quantitative stand- 
ards — miniature theater of world history. 

The fact that that battle "decided" between these two "possibili- 
ties" or at least had a great deal to do with the decision, is obviously 
— since we are not Athenians — the only reason why we are historic- 
ally interested in it. Without an appraisal of those "possibilities" and 
of the irreplaceable cultural values which, as it appears to our retro- 
spective study, "depend" on that decision, a statement regarding its 
"significance" would be impossible. Without this appraisal, there 
would in truth be no reason why we should not rate that decisive con- 
test equally with a scuffle between two tribes of Kaffirs or Indians 
and accept in all seriousness the dull-witted "fundamental ideas" of 
Helmolt's Wcltgeschichte, as has indeed actually been done in that 
"modern" collective work.^''' When modern historians, as soon as they 
are required by some inquiry to define the "significance" of a concrete 
event by explicit reflection on and exposition of the developmental 
"possibilities," ask, as is usual, to be forgiven their use of this appar- 
ently anti-deterministic category, their request is without logical justi- 
fication. Karl Hampe, for example, in his Conradin, presents a very 
instructive exposition of the historical "significance" of the Battle of 
Togliacozza, on the basis of weighing the various "possibilities," the 
"decision" between which was made by the battle's entirely "acci- 
dental" outcome ("accidental" meaning here: determined by quite 
individual tactical events) ; then he suddenly weakens and adds: "But 

37 It goes without saying that this judgment dors not apply to the individual 
essays contained in this work, some of which are quite distinquished achieve- 
ments, although some are thoroughly "old fashioned" methodologically. 
The notion of a sort of "social" justice which would - — finally, finally! — take 
the contemptibly neglected Kafir and Indian tribes at least as seriously as the 
Athenians and which in orde' to make this just treatment really explicit and 
pronounced, resorts to a geographical organization of the data, is merely 


history knows no possibilities." To this we must answer: that process 
{Geschehen) which, conceived as subject to deterministic axioms, 
becomes an "objective thing," knows nothing of "posibihties" be- 
cause it "knows" nothing of concepts. "History," however, does rec- 
ognize possibiHtics, assuming that it seeks to be a science. In every 
Hne of every historical work, indeed in every selection of archival 
and source materials for publication, there are, or more correctly, 
piust, be, "judgments of possibility," if the publication is to have value 
for knowledge. 

What, then, is meant when we speak of a number of "possibilities" 
between which those contests are said to have "decided"?.. It involves 
first the production of — let us say it calmly — "imaginative con- 
structs" by the disregarding of one or more of those elements of 
"reality" which are actually present, and by the mental construction 
of a course of events which is altered through modification in one or 
more "conditions." Even the first step towards an historical judgment 
is thus — this is to be emphasized — a process of abstraction. This 
process proceeds through the analysis and mental isolation of the com- 
ponents of the directly given data — which are to be taken as a 
complex of possible causal relations — and should culminate in a syn- 
thesis of the "real" causal complex. Even this first step thus transforms 
the given "reality" into a "mental construct" in order to make it into 
an historical fact. In Goethe's words, "theory" is involved in the 

If now one examines these "judgments of possibility" — i.e., the 
propositions regarding what "would" happen in the event of the exclu- 
sion or modification of certain conditions — somewhat more closely 
and inquires: how are we really to arrive at them — there can be 
no doubt that it, is a matter of isolations and generalizations. This 
means that we so decompose the "given" into "components" that 
every one of them is fitted into an "empirical rule" ; hence, that it can 
be determined what effect each of them, with others present as "con- 
ditions," "could be expected" to have, in accordance with an empirical 
rule. A judgment of "possibility" in the sense in which the expression 
is used here, means, then, the continuous reference to "empirical 
rules" {Erjahrungsregeln) . The category of "possibility" is thus not 
used in its negative form. It is, in other words, not an expression of 


our Ignorance or incomplete knowledge in contrast with the assertative 
or apodictic judgment. Rather, to the contrary, it signifies here the 
reference to a positive knowledge of the "laws of events," to our 
"nomological" knowledge, as they say. 

When the question whether a certain train has already passed a 
station is answered "it is possible," this assertion means that the per- 
son who answered the question subjectively does not know the facts, 
which would exclude this belief, but that he is also not in a position 
to argue for its correctness. It means, in other words, "jiot knowing." 
If, however, Eduard Meyer judges that a theocratic-religious develop- 
ment in Hellas at the time of the Battle of Marathon was "possible," 
or in certain eventualities, "probable," this means, on the contrary, 
the assertion that certain components of the historically given situation 
were objectively present; that is, their presence was such as can now 
be ascertained with objective validity, and that they were, when we 
imagine the Battle of Marathon as not having happened or as having 
happened differently (including, naturally, a host of other components 
of the actual course of events), "capable" according to general empir- 
ical rules, of producing such a theocratic-religious development, as we 
.might say in borrowing for once from criminological terminology. 
The "knowledge" on which such a judgment of the "significance" of 
the Battle of Marathon rests is, in the light of all that we have said 
hitherto, on the one hand, knowledge of certain "facts," ("ontolog- 
ical" knowledge), "belonging" to the "historical situation" and ascer- 
tainable on the basis of certain sources, and on the other — as we have 
already seen — knowledge of certain known empirical rules, particu- 
larly those relating to the ways in which human beings are prone to 
react under given situations ("nomological knowledge"). The type 
of "validity" of these "empirical rules" will be considered later. In 
any case, it is clear that in order to demonstrate his thesis which is 
decisive for the "significance" of the Battle of Marathon, Eduard 
Meyer must, if it is challenged, analyze that "situation" into its 
"components" down to the point where our "imagination" can apply 
to this "ontological" knowledge our "nomological" knowledge which 
has been derived from our own experience and our knowledge of the 
conduct of others. When this has been done, then we can render 
a positive judgment that the joint action of those facts — including 


the conditions which have been conceived as modified in a certain 
way — "could" bring about the cfTcct which is asserted to be "objec- 
tively possible." This can only mean, in other words, that // we 
"conceived" the effect as having actually occurred under the modified 
conditions we would then recognize those facts thus modified to be 
"adequate causes." 

This rather extensive formulation of a simple matter, which was 
required for the sake of clearing away ambiguity, shows that the form- 
ulation of propositions about historical causal connections not only 
makes use of both types of abstraction, namely, isolation and general- 
ization; it shows also that the simplest historical judgment concerning 
the historical "significance" of a "concrete fact" is far removed from 
being a simple registration of something "found" in an already fin- 
ished form. The simplest historical judgment represents not only a 
categorially formed intellectual construct but it also does not acquire 
a valid content until we bring to the "given" reality the whole body 
of our "nomological" empirical knowledge. 

The historian will assert against this, correctly, that the actual 
course of historical work and the actual content of historical 
writing follows a different path. The historian's "sense of the situa- 
tion." his "intuition" uncover causal interconnections — not general- 
izations and reflections of "rules." The contrast with the natural 
sciences consists indeed precisely in the fact that the historian deals 
with the explanation of events and personalities which are "inter- 
preted" and "understood" by direct analogy with our own intellectual, 
spiritual and psychological constitution. In the historical treatise it 
is repeatedly altogether a question of the "sense of the situation," of 
the suggestive vividness of its account report which allows the reader 
to "empathize" with what has been depicted in the same way as that 
in which it is experienced and concretely grasped by the historian's 
own intuition, for the historian's account has not been produced by 
"clever" ratiocination. Moreover, it is further asserted, an objective 
judgment of possibility regarding what "would" have happened ac- 
cording to the general empirical rules, when a causal component is 
conceived as excluded or as modified, is often highly uncertain and 
often cannot be arrived at at all. Hence, such a basis for the attribu- 
tion of causes in history must in fact be permanently renounced, and 


thus it cannot be a constitutive element in the logical value of historical 

Arguments such as these confuse, basically, problems of distinct 
character. They confuse the psychological course of the origin of 
scientific knowledge and "artistic" form of presenting what is known, 
which is selected for the purpose of influencing the reader psycholog- 
ically on one hand, with the logical structure of knowledge, on the 

Ranke "divines" the past, and even the advancement of knowl- 
edge by an historian of lesser rank, is poorly served if he does not 
possess this "intuitive" gift. Where this is so, he remains a kind of 
lower rung-bureaucrat in the historical enterprise. But it is abso- 
lutely no different with the really great advances in knowledge in 
mathematics and the natural sciences. They all arise intuitively in 
the intuitive flashes of imagination as hypotheses which are then "veri- 
fied" vis-a-vis the facts, i.e., their validity is tested in procedures in- 
volving the use of already available empirical knowledge and they arc 
"formulated" in a logically correct way. The same is true in history: 
when we insist here on the dependence of the knowledge of the "essen- 
tial" on the use of the concept of objective possibility, we assert nothing 
at all about the psychologically interesting question which does not, 
however, concern us here, namely, how does an historical hypothesis 
arise in the mind of the investigator? We are here concerned only 
with the question of the logical category under which the hypothesis 
is to be demonstrated as valid in case of doubt or dispute, for it is that 
which determines its logical "structure." And if the historian's mode 
of presentation communicates the logical result of his historical causal 
judgments to the reader with reasoning in a manner which dispenses 
with the adduction of the evidence for his knowledge, i.e., if he "sug- 
gests" the course of events rather than pedantically "ratiocinating" 
about it, his presentation would be an historical novel and not at all 
a scientific finding, as long as the firm skeletal structure of established 
causes behind the artistically formed facade is lacking. The dry 
approach of logic is concerned only with this skeletal structure for even 
the historical exposition claims "validity" as "truth." The most im- 
portant phase of historical work \vhich we have hitherto considered, 
namely, the establishment of the causal regress, attains such validity 


only when, in the event of challenge, it is able to pass the test of the 
use of the category' of objective possibility which entails the isolation 
and generalization of the causal individual components for the pur- 
pose of ascertaining the possibility of the synthesis of certain conditions 
into adequate causes. 

It is, however, now clear that the causal analysis of personal 
actions proceeds logically in exactly the same way as the causal anal- 
ysis of the "historical significance" of the Battle of Marathon, i.e., by 
isolation, generalization and the construction of judgments of possi- 
bility. Let us take a limiting case : the reflective analysis of one's ow7i 
action of which logically untrained sentiment tends to believe that it 
certainly does not present any "logical problems" whatsoever, since 
one's action is directly given in experience and — asuming mental 
"health"^ — is "understandable" without further ado and hence is 
naturally "reproducible" in memory directly. Very simple reflections 
show that it is not, however, so, and that the "valid" answer to the 
question: why did I act in that way, constitutes a categorially formed 
construct which is to be raised to the level of the demonstrable judg- 
ment only by the use of abstractions. This is true even though the 
"demonstration" is in fact here conducted in the mind of the "acting 
person" himself. 

Let us assume a temperamental young mother who is tired of 
certain misdeeds of her little child, and as a good German who does 
not pay homage to the theory contained in Busch's fine lines, "Super- 
ficial is the rod — only the mind's power penetrates the soul," gives 
it a solid cuff. Let us further assume that she is sufficiently "sicklied 
o'er with the pale cast of thought" to give a few moments of reflection 
after the deed has been done to the question of the "pedagogical 
utility," of the "justice" of the cuff, or at least of the considerable "ex- 
penditure of energy" involved in the action. Or still better, let us 
assume that the howls of the child release in the paterfamilias, who, 
as a German, is convinced of his superior understanding of everything, 
including the rearing of children, the need to remonstrate with "her" 
on "teleological" grounds. Then "she" will, for example, expound 
the thought and offer it as an excuse that if at that moment she had 
not been, let us assume, "agitated" by a quarrel with the cook, that 
the aforementioned disciplinary procedure would not have been used 


at all or would not have been applied "in that way" ; she will be in- 
clined to admit to him: "he really knows that she is not ordinarily in 
that state." She refers him thereby to his "empirical knowledge" 
regarding her "usual motives," which in the vast majority of all the 
generally possible constellations would have led to another, less irra- 
tional effect. She claims, in other words, that the blow which she 
delivered was an "accidental" and not an "adequately" caused reaction 
to the behavior of her child, to anticipate the terminology which we 
shall shortly employ. 

This domestic dialogue has thus sufficed to turn the experience in 
question into a categorially formed "object." Even though, exactly 
like Molicre's philistine who learned to his pleasant surprise that he 
had been speaking "prose" all his life, the young woman would cei"- 
tainly be astounded if a logician showed her that she had made a 
causal "imputation" just like an historian, that, to this end, she had 
made "judgments of objective possibility" and had "operated" with the 
category of "adequate causation," which we shall shortly discuss more 
closely — yet such is precisely and inevitably the case from the point 
of view of logic. Rcfletive knowledge, even of one's own experience, 
is nowhere and never a literally "repeated experience" or a simple 
"photograph" of what was experienced; the "experience," when it 
is made into an "object," acquires perspectives and interrelation- 
ships which were not "known" in the experience itself. The idea 
formed in later reflection, of one's own past action is no different in 
this respect from the idea so formed of a past concrete natural event 
in the external world, which had been experienced by one's self or 
which was reported by someone else. It will probably not be neces- 
sary to elucidate further''^ the universal validity of this proposition 

.38 We will here consider briefly only one more example which K. Vossler (op. 
rit., p. 101 ff. ) analyzes in order to illustrate why there must be failure in 
the construction of "laws." He mentions certain linguistic idiosyncrasies 
which, within his family, "an Italian linguistic island in the sea of German 
speech," were developed by his children and imitated by the parents in 
their conversations with the children; its origin goes back to quite con- 
crete stimuli which are still completely clear in his memory. He then asks: 
What does folk psychology, and we may add in accordance with his outlook, 
any "law-seeking science," still wish to explain in these cases of linguistic 
development? The event, considered in and of itself, is in fact prima facie 
fully explained and nonetheless, this does not imply that it cannot be an object 
for further elaboration and use. First, the fact that the causal relationship is 


with complicated examples, or to state expressly, that we proceed log- 
ically in the same way in the analysis of a decision of Napoleon or 
Bismarck as we did in the example of our German mother. 

The distinction that the "inward aspect" of the action which is 
to be analyzed is directly given to her in her own memory, whereas we 
must "interpret" the action of a third party from the "outside," is, 
despite the naive prejudice to the contrary, only a gradual continuous 

definitely discoverable could (at least conceivably — we are only arguing the 
possibility) be used as an heuristic means in order to test other events of 
linguistic development in order to see whether the same causal relationship 
can be confirmed as probable in their case. This requires, however, from a 
logical standpoint, the subsumption of the concrete case under a general rule. 
Vossler himself has also formulated the rule as follows: "the more frequently 
used forms attract the less frequently used ones." But that is not enough. We 
have said that the causal explanation of the case in question was prima facte 
inadequate. But it must not be forgotten that every individual causal com- 
plex, even the apparently "simplest," can be infinitely subdivided and analzyed. 
The point at which we halt in this process is determined only by our causal 
interests at the time. And in the present case, nothing at all is said to the 
effect that our causal need must be satisfied with the "objective" process enun- 
ciated in the rule. Precise observation would possibly, for example, show that 
the very "attraction" which conditioned the children's linguistic innovations 
and similarly the parental imitation of this juvenile linguistic creation took 
place to a very different extent for different word-forms. The question could 
then be raised whether something might not be said about why for given word- 
forms, the attraction or the imitation did not happen more frequently or less 
frequently or did not appear at all. Our need for causal explanation would 
be satisfactorily met only when the conditions of this frequency of occurrence 
were formulated in rules and the concrete case could be "explained" as a 
particular constellation arising from the "joint action" of such rules under 
concrete "conditions." At this point Vossler would have the repulsive search 
for laws, isolation, generalization in the very intimacy of his home. And 
what is more, through his own fault. For his own general conception, "Analogy 
is a question of psychic power," compels us quite inescapably to ask the ques- 
tion whether absolutely nothing general can be discovered and stated about 
the "psychic" conditions of such "psychic power relations." And at first 
glance it forcibly draws in — in this formulation — what appears to be Voss- 
ler's chief enemy, namely, "psychology," into the question. Whenever in the 
concrete case, we content ourselves with the simple presentation of what con- 
cretely occurred, the reason for this may be twofold — : first: those "rules" 
which could be discovered, for instance, by further analysis would, in the given 
case, probably not afford any new insights for science — in other words, the 
concrete event is not very significant as a "heuristic means" ; and second, that 
the concrete occurrence itself, because it became effective only in a narrow 
circle, had not universal significance for linguistic development, and thus re- 
mained "insignificant" as a "real historical cause." Only the limits of our 
interest, then, and not its logical meaninglessness account for the fact that the 
occurrence of the formulation of linguistic idiosyncrasies in Vossler's family 
presumably remains exempt from "conceptualization." 


difference in the degree of accessibility and completeness of the "data." 
We are indeed always inclined to believe that if we find the "per- 
sonality" of a human being "complicated" and difficult to interpret, 
that he himself must be able to furnish us with the decisive informa- 
tion if he really honestly wished to do so. We will not discuss further 
at this point either the fact that or the reason why this is not so — 
or, indeed, why the contrary is often the case. 

Let us turn rather to a closer examination of category of 
"objective possibility" which we have thus far dealt with only very 
generally in respect to its function. We shall examine in particular 
the question of the modality of the "validity" of the "judgment of 
possibility." The question should be asked: whether the introduction 
of "possibilities" into the "causal enquiry" implies a renunciation of 
causal knowledge altogether; whether in spite of all that has been 
said above about the "objective" foundation of the judgment of possi- 
bility — in view of the relegation of the determination of the "pos- 
sible" course of events to the "imagination"^ — - the recognition of the 
significance of this category is not equivalent to the admission that the 
door is wide open to subjective arbitrariness in "historiography." Is 
not the "scientific" status of historiography therefore destroyed by the 
very use of this category? In fact, what "would" have happened if 
a certain conditioning factor had been conceived of or modified in a 
certain way — this question, it will be asserted, is often not answer- 
able definitely with any degree of probability by the use of general 
empirical rules even where the "ideal" completeness of the source 
materials exists. '^'^ However, that ideal completeness of source mater- 
ials is not unconditionally required. The assessment of the causal 
significance of an historical fact will begin with the posing of the fol- 
lowing question : in the event of the exclusion of that fact from the 
complex of the factors which are taken into account as co-determin- 
ants, or in the event of its modification in a certain direction, could 
the course of events, in accordance with general empirical rules, have 
taken a direction in any way different in any features which would 
be decisive for our interest? For we are indeed concerned only with 

^^ The attempt to hypothesize in a positive way what "would" have happened 
can, if it is made, lead to grotesque results. 


this, namely, how are those "aspects" of the phenomenon which inter- 
est us affected by the individual co-determinant factors? It we cannot 
obtain a corresponding "judgment of objective possibility" to this 
essentially negatively posed question, or — what amounts to the same 
thing — if in the case of the exclusion or modification of the afore- 
mentioned fact, the course of events in regard to historically im- 
portant features, i.e., those of interest to us, could in accordance with 
the state of our present knowledge, be expected to occur, in the light 
of general empirical rules, in the way in which it had actually occurred, 
then that fact is indeed causally insignificant and absolutely does not 
belong to the chain which the regressive causal analysis of history 
seeks to establish and should establish. 

The two shots fired in Berlin on that March night belong, accord- 
ing to Eduard Meyer, almost entirely in this class of causally insignifi- 
cant facts. It is possible that they do not belong there completely 
because even on his view of the matter, it is conceivable that the 
moment of the outbreak might at least have been con-determined by 
them, and a later moment might have led to a different course of 

If, however, in accordance with our empirical knowledge, the 
causal relevance of a factor can be assumed in regard to the points 
which are important for the concrete study which is under way, the 
judgment of objective possibility which asserts this relevance is capable 
of a whole range of degrees of certainty. The view of Eduard Meyer 
that Bismarck's "decision" "led" to the War of 1866 in a sense quite 
different from those two shots, led to the events of '48, involves the 
argument that if we were to disregard this decision from our analysis, 
the other remaining determinants of the situation in '66 would force 
us to accept as having a "high degree" of objective possibility a devel- 
opment which would be quite different (in "essential" respects!). 
This other development would have included, for instance, the con- 
clusion of the Prussian-Italian Treaty, the peaceful renunciation of 
Venice, the coalition of Austria with France, or at least a shift in the 
military and political situation which would have, in fact, made Na- 
polean the "master of the situation." 

The judgment of "objective" possibility admits gradations of de- 
gree and one can form an idea of the logical relationship which is 


involved by looking for help in principles which are applied in the 
analysis of the "calculus of probability." Those causal components 
to the effect of which the judgment refers are conceived as isolated 
and distinguished from the totality of all the conditions which are at 
all conceivable as interacting with them. One then asks how the 
entire complex of all those conditions with the addition of which 
those isolatedly conceived components were "calculated" to bring 
about the "possible" effect, stands in relation to the complex of all 
those conditions, the addition of which would not have "foreseeably" 
led to the effect. One naturally cannot in any way arrive by this 
operation at an estimate of the relationship between these two possi- 
bilities which will be in any sense "numerical." This would be attain- 
able only in the sphere of "absolute chance" (in the logical sense), 
i.e., in cases where — for example, as in the throwing of dice, or the 
drawing balls of various colors from an urn, unaflfected in composi- 
tion by the drawings therefrom — given a very large number of cases, 
certain simple and unambiguous conditions remain absolutely the 
same. Also, all the other conditions, however, vary in a way which 
is absolutely inaccessible to our knowledge. And, those "features" of 
the effects concerning which there is interest — in the throwing of 
dice, the number of eyes which are uppermost, in the drawing from 
the urn, the color of the ball — are so determined as to their "possi- 
bility" by those constant and unambiguous conditions (the structure 
of the dice, the composition of the urn), that all other conceivable 
conditions, show no causal relationship to those "possibilities" express- 
ible in a general empirical proposition. The way in which I grasp and 
shake the dice box before the toss is an absolutely determining causal 
component of the number of eyes which I concretely toss — but there 
is no possibility whatsoever, despite all superstitions about the "bones," 
of even thinking of an empirical proposition which will assert that a 
certain way of grasping the box and shaking it is "calculated" to 
favor the toss of a certain number of eyes. Such causality is, then, 
wholly a "chance" causality, i.e., we are justified in asserting that the 
physical style of the thrower has no influence "stateable in a rule" on 
the chances of tossing a certain number of eyes. With every style the 
"chances" of each of the six possible sides of the dice to come out 
facing upwards are "equal." On th(" other hand, there is a general 


empirical proposition which asserts that where the center of gravity 
of the dice is displaced, there is a "favorable chance" for a certain 
side of these "loaded" dice to come out uppermost., whatever other 
concrete determinants arc also present. We can even express numer- 
ically the degree of this "favorable chance," of this "objective possi- 
bility," by sufficiently frequent repetition of the toss. Despite the 
familiar and fully justified notice which warns against the transference 
of the principles of the calculus of probabilities into other domains, it 
is clear that the latter case of favorable chance or "objective prob- 
ability," determined from general empirical propositions or from 
empirical frequencies, has its analogues in the sphere of all concrete 
causality, including the historical. The only difference is that it is 
precisely here in the sphere of concrete causality that ability to assign 
a numerical measure of chance is wholly lacking since this presupposes 
the existence of "absolute chance" or certain measurable or countable 
aspects of phenomena or results as the sole object of scientific interest. 
But despite this lack, we can not only very well render generally valid 
judgments which assert that as a result of certain situations, the occur- 
rence of a type of reaction, identical in certain respects, on the part 
of those persons who confront these situations, is "favored" to a more 
or less high degree. When we formulate such a proposition, we are 
indeed also in a position to designate a great mass of possible circum- 
stances which, even if added to the original conditions, do not affect 
the validity of the general rule under which the "favoring" of the 
occurrence in question is to be expected. And we can finally estimate 
the degree to which a certain efTect is "favored" by certain "condi- 
tions" — although we cannot do it in a way which will be perfectly 
unambiguous or even in accordance with the procedures of the calcu- 
lus of probability. We can, however, well enough estimate the relative 
"degree" to which the outcome is "favored" by the general rule by a 
comparison involving the consideration of how other conditions operat- 
ing differently "would" have "favored" it. When we carry through 
this comparison in our imagination by sufficiently numerous conceiv- 
able modifications of the constellation of conditions, then a consid- 
erable degree of certainty for a judgment of the "degree" of objective 
possibility is conceivable, at least in principle, — and it is only its con- 
ceivability in principle which concerns us here primarily. Not only 


in daily life but also and indeed in history we constantly use such 
judgments regarding the degree to which an effect is "favored" — 
indeed, without them, a distinction of the causally "important" and 
"unimportant" would simply not be possible. Even Eduard Meyer in 
the work which we are discussing here has used them without hesita- 
tion. If both of those shots, which have been frequently mentioned, 
were causally "irrelevant" because "any accident whatsoever" accord- 
ing to Eduard Meyer's view, which we shall not criticize for actual 
correctness here, "must have caused the conflict to break out," this 
means, at any rate, that in the given historical constellation certain 
"conditions" are conceptually isolatable which would have led to that 
effect in a preponderantly great majority of instances given even the 
co-presence in that constellation of other possible conditions; while at 
the same time, the range of such conceivable causal factors, that given 
their addition to the original constellation, other effects (i.e., "other" 
with respect to aspects decisive for our interest!) would seem to us to 
be probable, appears as relatively very limited. We will not accept 
Eduard Meyer's view that the chance of any other effect was indeed 
equal to zero, despite his use of the words "must have" in view of his 
heavy emphasis on the irrationality of historical events. 

We shall designate as cases of "adequate" causation*^ in accordance 
with the linguistic usage of the theorists of legal causality established 
since the work of von Kries, those cases in which the relationship of 
certain complexes of "conditions" synthesized into a unity by histor- 
ical reflection and conceived as isolated, to an "effect" that occurred, 
belongs to the logical type which was mentioned last. And just like 
Eduard Meyer — who, however, does not define the concept clearly — 
we shall speak of "chance" causation where, for the historically rele- 
vant components of the result, certain facts acted to produce an effect 
which was not "adequate," in the sense just spoken of in relation to a 
complex of conditions conceptually combined into a "unity." 

To return to the examples which we used above, the "significance" 
of the Battle of Marathon according to Eduard Meyer's view is to be 
stated in the following logical terms: it is not the case that a Persian 
victory must have led to a quite different development of Hellenic and 

^0 Of such and such components of the effect by such and such conditions. 


therewith of world cuhure — such a judgment would be quite impos- 
sible. Rather is that significance to be put as follows : that a different 
development of Hellenic and world culture "would have" been the 
"adequate" effect of such an event as a Persian victory. The logically 
correct formulation of Eduard Meyer's statement about the unification 
of Germany, to which von Below objects, would be: this unification 
can be made understandable, in the light of general empirical rules, 
as the "adequate" effect of certain prior events and in the same way 
the March Revolution in Berlin is intelligible on the basis of general 
empirical rules as the "adequate" effect of certain general social and 
political "conditions." If, on the contrary, for example, it were to 
be argued convincingly that without those two shots in front of the 
Berlin Castle, a revolution "would," in the light of general empirical 
rules, have been avoidable with a decidedly high degree of probability, 
because it could be shown in the light of general empirical rules that 
the combination of the other "conditions" would not, or at least not 
considerably, have "favored" — in the sense explained before the out- 
break — without the intervention of those shots, then we would speak of 
"chance" causation and we should, in that case — a case, to be sure, very 
difficult to envisage — have to "impute" the March Revolution to those 
two shots. In the example of the unification of Germany, the oppo- 
site of "chance" is not, as von Below thought, "necessity," but rather 
"adequate" in the sense, which, following von Kries, we developed 
above. *^ And it should be firmly emphasized that in this contrast of 
"chance" and "adequate," it is never a matter of distinction pertaining 
to the "objective" causality of the course of historical events and their 
causal relationships but is rather always altogether a matter of our 
isolating, by abstraction, a part of the "conditions" which are em- 
bedded in "the raw materials" of the events and of making them into 
objects of judgments of possibility. This is done for the purpose of 
gaining insight, on the basis of empirical rules, into the causal "sig- 
nificance" of individual components of the events. In order to pene- 

*^ We shall deal later with the question of whether and to what extent wc 
have the means of assuring the "degree" of adequacy, and whether so-called 
"analogies" play a role here, and if so, which role they play particularly in 
the analysis of complex "total causes" into their "components" — since no 
"analytical key" is objectively given to us. The present formulation is neces- 
sarily provisional. 


trate to the real causal interrelationships, we construct unreal ones. 

The fact that abstractions are involved in this process is misunder- 
stood especially frequently and in a quite specific way which has its 
counterpart in theories of certain writers on legal causality who base 
their views on John Stuart Mill's views and which has been convinc- 
ingly criticized in the previously cited work of von Kries.*" 

Mill held that the fraction numerically expressing the degree of 
probability of an expected result indicated the relationship between 
causes which act to bring about the result and those which act to 
"prevent" the same, both kinds of causes existing objectively at the 
given moment of time. Following Mill, Binding asserts that between 
those conditions "which act for the realization of a given result" and 
those "resisting" it, there is in some cases a numerically determinable 
relationship, (or, in any case, one which can be estimated) which 
objectively exists; under certain conditions, in a "state of equilibrium." 
The process of causation occurs, according to Binding, when the former 
kind of condition outweighs the latter.*-"^ It is quite clear that here 
the phenomenon of the "conflict of motives" which presents itself 
as an immediate "experience" in deliberation concerning human 
"actions" has been transformed into a basis for the theoiy of causality. 
Whatever general significance may be attributed to this phenomenon,*'* 
it is, however, certain no rigorous causal analysis, even in history, can 
accept this anthropomorphism."*^ 

^^ I scarcely mention the extent to which here again, as in so much of the pre- 
ceding argument, I am "plundering" von Kries' ideas. While at the same 
time the formulation thereof is often necessarily inferior in precision to von 
Kries' own statement. But both of these deficiencies are unavoidable in view 
of the purposes of the present study. 

^•^ Binding, Die Normen und ihre Ubertretung, I, p. 41 flf. Cf. also von Kries, 
op. cit., p. 107. 

*■* H. Gomperz, Uber die W ahrscheinlichkeit der Willensentscheidungen, 
Vienna, 1904. (OflT-print from Sitzungsberichten der Wiener Akademie, Philo- 
sophisch-Hislorische Klasse, vol. 149), has used the phenomenon referred to 
as the basis of a phcnomenological theory of "decision." I will not take it 
upon myself to pass a judgment on the value of his presentation of the process. 
Nonetheless, it seems to me that apart from this, Windelband's — intentionally, 
for his own purposes — - purely conceptual-analytical identification of the 
"stronger" motive with the one which ultimately "precipitates" the decision 
in its favor is not the only possible wav of dealing with the problem. (Cf. 
Uber Willensjreiheit, p. 36 fT.) 
^" Kistiakowski is right to this extent. Op. cit. 


Not only is the conception of two "opposed" working "forces" a 
spatial and physical image which can be used without self-deception 
only in discussing events — particularly those which are mechanical 
and physical in nature — which involve two physical "opposite" re- 
sults, each of which can be realized only by the one or the other of 
the "opposed" forces. Rather it is to be emphasized once and for all 
that a concrete result cannot be viewed as the product of a struggle 
of certain causes favoring it and other causes opposing it. The situa- 
tion must, instead, be seen as follows: the totality of all the conditions 
back to which the causal chain from the "effect" leads had to "act 
jointly" in a certain way and in no other for the concrete effect to be 
realized. In other words, the appearance of the result is, for every 
causally working empirical science, determined not just from a certain 
moment but "from eternity." When, then, we speak of "favoring" 
and "obstructing" conditions of a given result, we cannot mean thereby 
that certain conditions have exerted themselves in vain in the concrete 
case to hinder the result eventually realized, while others, despite the 
former ultimately succeeded in bringing it about, rather the expression 
in question must always and without exception mean only this: that 
certain components of the reality which preceded the result in time, 
isolated conceptually, generally in accordance with general empirical 
rules, favor a result of the type in question. This means, however, 
as we know, that this result is brought about by those previously 
mentioned components of reality in the majority of the conceivably 
possible combinations with other conditions which are conceived of 
as possible while certain other combinations generally do not pro- 
duce this result but rather another. When Eduard Meyer, for ex- 
ample, says of cases where (p. 27) "Everything pressed towards a cer- 
tain result," it is a question of a generalizing and isolating abstraction 
and not of the reproduction of a course of events which in fact 
occurred. What is meant, however, if correctly formulated logically, 
is simply that we can observe causal "factors" and can conceptually 
isolate them, and that expected rules must be thought of as standing 
in a relationship of adequacy to those factors, while relatively few 
combinations are conceivable of those conceptually isolated "factors" 
with other causal "factors" from which another result could be "ex- 
j)ccted" in accordance with general empirical rules. In instances 


where the situation is in our conception of it just as it is described by 
Eduard Meyer, we speak'*^ of the presence of a "developmental ten- 
dency" oriented toward the result in question. 

This, like the use of images such as "driving forces" or the reverse 
"obstacles" to a development, e.g., of capitalism — no less than the 
usage which asserts that a certain "rule" of causal relationship is 
"transcended" in a concrete case by certain causal linkages or (still 
more imprecisely) a "law" is "overruled" by another "law" — all such 
designations are irreproachable if one is always conscious of their con- 
ceptual character, i.e., as long as one bears in mind that they rest on 
the abstraction of certain components of the real causal chain, on the 
conceptual generalization of the rest of the components in the form 
of judgments of objective possibility, and on the use of these to mould 
the event into a causal complex with a certain structure.*^ It is not 
sufficient for us that in this case one agrees and remains aware that 
all our "knowledge" is related to a categorially formed reality, and 
that, for example, "causality" is a category of "our" thought. Caus- 
ality has a special character^^ when it is a question of the "adequacy" 
of causation. Although we do not in so doing intend to present an 
exhaustive analysis of this category of adequate causation, still it will 
be necessary at least to present one briefly in order to clarify the 
strictly relative nature of the distinction between "adequate" and 
"chance" causation which is determined by any of the possible goals 
of knowledge. This will have to be done in order to make under- 
standable how the frequently very uncertain content of the proposi- 
tion included in a "judgment of possibility" harmonizes with the claim 
to validity which it nonetheless asserts and with its usefulness in the 
construction of causal sequences which exists in spite of the iuk er- 
tainty of the content.'*''^ 

46 The unattractiveness of the words docs not afTcct the existence of the logical 
matter in any way. 

*''' It is only where this is forgotten — as happens, of course, often enough — 
that Kistiakowski's criticisms (op. cit. ) concerning the "metaphysical" charac- 
ter of this causal approach are justified. 

"^^ Here, too, the decisive viewpoints have been in part explicitly presented, 
and in part touched upon by von Kries (op. cit.) and by Radbruch (op. cit.). 

'*^ A further essay was to have followed. 


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